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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.

 

Baby me spending time with my daddy. 🙂

Skipping Stones
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.

 

 

 

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Think back to your childhood. Was there a person who always stood by and supported you? Was there someone who told you that you should go for your dreams and not give up?  I had that person and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Let me introduce you to my dad (yes, that is baby me in the photograph as well). I was a self-proclaimed daddy’s girl growing up. Yes, he spoiled me rotten since I was the only girl. He called me his “jellybean.”  He was also one of my biggest fans when it came to my writing. You see, I started writing stories when I was five years old. Every time I would go to his apartment on the weekends, he would sit me down and ask if I had written any stories lately. If I had, he asked for me to read them to him.  I remember being so excited to do that and how proud he always was. He would smile and clap when I was finished, telling me what  a good job I was doing. He told me I was destined to be a writer. It was like he could just feel it.

Whenever I talked about writing with my dad, he always made me feel like I could actually do it. He didn’t put me down or scoff, saying that it was an impossible dream. My dad knew I was talented and he believed in me.  There wasn’t anything I couldn’t do in his eyes.

Today would have been my dad’s birthday. I say “would have been” because he passed away on May 31st, 1999. I was 15 years old and just moved to Missouri from upstate New York. That was a day I never want to relive again. That was my darkest moment when my biggest fan wasn’t there anymore.

I miss him. A lot. There are so many things I didn’t get to say to him. There were so many things he didn’t get to see, and that’s hard to deal with sometimes.  He’s not here to cheer me on or read my latest story anymore.  You can’t replace him with someone else.  But, sometimes, when I’m writing, it’s almost as if he’s there with me.  My dad is there through my creative process. He’s still guiding me along in memory.

My biggest fan may not be here physically any longer, but he’s still around. 🙂

If your “biggest fan” is still with you today, please take the time to let them know how much you appreciate them. Tell them how much they really mean to you. Sadly, I didn’t do that and I wish I had. If your biggest fan isn’t around anymore, remember them fondly and know that no matter what, they’re still with you.

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I used to love the summers when I was a kid. When I was younger, life didn’t hold the kinds of stress that it does now.  As much as I love the absence of cold weather this time of year, it just doesn’t hold that magical quality that it used to. That makes me kind of sad.

During the summers, my days were so exciting and full of things to do. Each summer before I turned 15, I would go up to my dad’s house in upstate New York to stay with him and my two brothers. We would play and just act like the kids we were. My parents divorced when I was about four years old and it definitely took its toll on my family.

There was always one constant in my life. That was writing. Writing for me kept me going when all else seemed to be so chaotic around me. I imagined myself in different worlds and it made things better. Especially in the summer when we didn’t have school to keep us occupied. I would read and write all day.

Not only would I visit with my dad during the summer, but I would see my other “biggest fan”. My grandpa.

Me and Grandpa

The picture is a bit blurry, but it’s an old picture so it was a bit fuzzy to begin with. You get the idea anyways. Ever since I was born, my grandpa pretty much spoiled me, and I idolized him. He would have me tell him stories and always encouraged my creativity. I was always known as the “Little Storyteller” in the family. In elementary school, I wrote him a book called “Grampa Coming Home For Christmas”. I’m sure you can tell what the plot was about. 🙂  Every summer, I would visit him and make sure he was taken care of after he had a bad car accident and had to be put on oxygen 24 hours a day. He made me smile and forget all the bad things that were going on. He made sure that I kept up my dream of being a writer.

Summers haven’t been the same since he passed away when I was 17. Two years before that on May 31st, my dad passed away from a long battle of being sick. These two men that I adored were now gone. The two people who have always encouraged me to be who I wanted to be.

When I write, I think about them. I can see them in my head, cheering me on. That’s what keeps me going.  I know they would be proud of me.  Not only for the person I am, but for the writer I have become.

Who in your life has always encouraged you with whatever you wanted to do?

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Today, well, yesterday by the time I publish this post, was father’s day. Usually, it’s a time when you give your dad the usual Hallmark greeting card and some kind of gift like a tie….or some tools…whatever the department stores are telling you to buy.  I remember as a little girl, I would make my dad’s father’s day cards.  Honestly, I’m no artist nor will I ever claim to be, but my dad was always so happy with my handmade, colored marker filled, construction paper cards.

My dad was one of my biggest supporters. He always believed in my writing dreams. He knew that if I wanted to be a successful writer, it was going to happen. My dad encouraged me to work hard and never give up.  Of course, my mom always agreed (which was odd because after they divorced when I was 4 years old, they were hardly on the same page ever..).  That was something they could always agree on. They both loved me and my brother unconditionally and made a lot of sacrifices so we could accomplish our dreams.

I’m sitting here right now in front of my computer, trying to choose just one favorite memory I have with my dad. There are many since I was quite the “Daddy’s Girl” growing up.  I do think a favorite would be going to his apartment on the weekends and bringing the short story I wrote that week in school. He’ d be so excited to hear what I had written. He would sit in his recliner and let me read the story to him.  Let’s remember here, I was a kid. What I was writing wasn’t Hemingway or Faulkner. It was just a kid in elementary school writing stories about her cat, friends, and one time, a story about Kindergarten class’ pet rabbit.  Her name was Fredericka (I didn’t come up with the name, so don’t look at me), and guess what that story was called? If you guessed “Fredericka”, give yourselves a pat on the back! You won! Yes, all you get is a pat on the back. Sorry. 🙂

Back to my memory. No matter how tired my dad was at the end of a long work day (he was a meat cutter which is a completely disgusting  job, but hey, if that’s what you do, I respect you), my dad would always be a very attentive listener. He would have me show my “illustrations” and ask what brought me to write that story.  That interest in my writing continued for years. When my mom moved me and my little brother to Missouri, he would call us every Sunday and ask if I was writing anything and what it was about. He knew how important it was to be supportive.

All that ended on May 31st, 1999. That was the day my dad passed away from pneumonia.  He had become sober from alcohol for two years before he died. Of course, his many years of being an alcoholic took its toll on his body and he got sick.  I was still in Missouri, so I never really got to say goodbye. I think that’s one of the hardest things I still have to deal with. The unanswered questions.  Losing someone who always believed in me.

I miss the phone calls. I miss those days when I would bring him what I was working on and read it to him. There is a lot I miss about my dad. I would give a lot to have it all back, to just hear his voice one more time. I would love to tell him about the novel I’m working on. I think he’d be proud of me.

It’s been eleven years since he passed away. There are some days where I don’t think about him as much, but on father’s day, I think about him all day. So, this post is dedicated to my dad, William. I’m still going to achieve my dreams, not only for myself, but for him as well.  His belief in me still holds true to this day. I’m not going to forget that.

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A few weeks ago, I was offered the opportunity to submit a writing project I have completed. Last week, it was published on a blog here on WordPress called The One Story Project that I think is an amazing idea and a great community for creative people to showcase their work. 🙂

The work I submitted was a personal essay I wrote for my Advanced Composition class in college. It is a very personal memoir of a time I shared with my dad. I have provided the link to the blog entry and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Click here to read

I hope you enjoy! 🙂

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