It didn't matter how many people showed up to celebrate my birthday when I was five, ten, thirteen; there was always something/someone missing. At thirty-nine-years-old, I separated from my husband, my mother died and I returned to school, convinced that completing a degree would be the answer to all my worries.
"Knowledge is power," I told my kids when they'd come home from school and we would all be doing homework together.
Academic writing didn't save my life, but it helped. Clearing away the noise in my head of my mother's death, my divorce, led me to a writing circle at Women Writing for (a) Change.
It's there I found my dad.
The sense of lack that haunted me from the time that I realized I had a dad at four-years-old, began to fall away. My life started on an abundant course where he became a living, breathing person. He no longer was the angel bowling during thunderstorms like my mother had described when I was young.
I put flesh to two-dimensional, black and white photos. I gave him a voice and a guitar like my mother had described when she watched Roy Clark perform the song, "Yesterday When I was Young." Cheesy, I know. But my dad wore cowboy boots and a Pendleton wool jacket, and I envision him tinkering in a barn, listening to an AM radio station out of Salt Lake City.
I found it fascinating to explore the thought of my mom being with him for the first time after she died. That fed my writing as well. And then, studying a picture of him, I heard him tell me to meet him for a horseback ride.
I slipped on headphones and put a CD in the old Walkman, and walked, lost in visions of meeting my dad on a ridge, wind whistling through a forest of pines, where he waited with two saddled horses, for us to go galloping away like Robert Redford and Annie MacLean in the Horse Whisperer.
It's sixty-two years and five months since he died. And today, it's sixty-two years since I was born. When I found writing after my mother's death, I began to live with my image of him, not hers.
Today I salute the love my parents had for each other, the love that created me and legacy I hope to leave to help others through their grief by writing those who are gone to life.