Today is Father’s Day. Usually that’s a time for celebrating and enjoying time with that special dad in your life. Since I was 15, it really hasn’t been that for me. On May 31, 1999, my dad passed away. It was hard to cope as a teenager to the fact that your dad wasn’t around anymore. So usually on the special holidays (his birthday, the anniversary of his death and Father’s Day) I shut down. I couldn’t even deal seeing the father’s day cards in the stores or the commercials on television. But today, I decided I’m going to celebrate Father’s Day in his memory because I know he’s proud of me. So for this post, I want to share a special personal essay I wrote in college about a memory I have of my dad. I hope you enjoy! And, to you, Dad: I love you and miss you. Happy Father’s Day.
By: Melissa Wright
I can still hear the birds sing in my head. They sang a memorable tune as I stood at the same pond I had stood at eight years before. The place looked the same. There were more weeds and fewer purple wild flowers that I used to pick. And this time, I stood alone looking out at the water, randomly skipping stones, wishing I had the one person there that had left me two weeks before — my rock, my father.
My parents divorced when I was five years old. My father was a terrible alcoholic and my mother got sick of it. I spent some weekends and summer with my dad in his apartment in central New York. I grew up being a very shy girl, more so than I am now. There wasn’t a need to be social or have too many friends.
My dad was always concerned about that. He’d say to me, “Melissa, you need to get out there and make new friends. You’re a wonderful girl. You should be the life of the party.” I’d tell him I was fine with the small group of friends I had. I never had a problem not being the social butterfly everyone else was.
He was also my biggest supporter when it came to my writing. No matter what I wanted to do, he always encouraged it. Every time I would bring home a story I wrote at school, he would have me read it to him. My dad would sit in his recliner and listen intently to every word, nodding his head every so often. He just wanted me to be happy and to accomplish my dreams.
One summer evening, my dad took me to a pond nearby his apartment. It wasn’t a long walk, just a half mile away. I remember taking my father’s hand and feeling secure as we walked over the rocky road. We stood at the pond in silence. My dad was always one for quiet reflection. He enjoyed his time of peace. At that time, he was a recovering alcoholic, still trying to find his way. I remember going off and picking those purple wild flowers while he meditated. I always had a feeling he liked to be alone during this time. I still think that must have been scary for him.
After he was through with his meditations, we would end up skipping stones on the water. I was never very good at it. My stones always landed with a plop and sunk into the water. My dad was good — better than good. He was the best. I never could get the hang of it and that’s why he reminded me about perseverance. There were people in our family who said my dad could never quit drinking alcohol. He could never stop. He proved them wrong. Sometimes, you just have to keep trying to get better at things.
I was fifteen when my father passed away, a young girl who was naive enough to never think anything bad could happen to her family. It was during the summer when I got the phone call from my older brother, telling me the unthinkable news. Who was going to spend my summers at the pond with me? Who was going to help me skip stones? I lost my dad that day, lost my rock, my support system. Images of our times at the pond and of my dad smiling at me flashed through my head. Yet, I was glad that I didn’t have to see him deteriorate into nothing.
My life changed from then on. I didn’t have my dad around anymore to support me. Yet, I changed. I began to do what my dad told me to do: to persevere; to not let my past determine who I am today. I broke out of my shell and got to know more people. A few days after his memorial service, I went back to that same pond, alone and older. Things had changed, but the pond was still the same: there were the same flowers and the water still sparkled. I grabbed a stone and threw it out into the water, smiling when it skipped a few times and then sank slowly into the water. I was finally starting to get it. I knew my dad would have been proud of me, for not only learning out to skip stones after so many years of trying, but also for learning to let go of the past, for learning to let go of things I can’t really change. I can’t bring my dad back not matter how much I want to. It was a bittersweet moment. I knew for my own sake that it was my way of saying goodbye.
I still think of my dad and our summer evenings at the pond where life was carefree and innocent. Sometimes, I want those days back. But, I have them in my heart, where the birds still sing and the little purple wild flowers grow. Any time I feel down, there’s just one thing I know to do. I skip stones.