I slid my hand in my jeans pocket after stomping on a cigarette in the driveway as I walked to meet him on his way to the house from his truck. I knew he was on his way over, and I knew there was something big in the air. Even at 16, I had a sixth sense about these things. And although I had a deep knowing that something was wrong with my mother, I had no idea how wrong.
“It’s your mother. She’s dead, Dian.”
The day my father said those six words to me changed my life, although at the time I had no idea how much; I only heard my father’s words. Today, I think about the courage it must have taken my father to utter those six words to his 16-year old daughter. I think about all the things in my own life I wish I didn’t have to say. And I think about what that moment gave me to hold onto, for the rest of my life.
I recognize that the words that came from my father’s mouth that Sunday afternoon were more than just words. The words, and the fact that he spoke them to me so simply, speak to the courage that was embedded in my father’s soul in living his life.
He did not tip-toe around what he had to say. He did not ask questions or put off the moment in any way. He also did not rush it.
It’s not often that I think about that day, and still, I recognize how a single moment changed my life. For years I saw it, simply, as the removal of my mother from my life. Wait, did you ever meet my mother? No, then we must have met after June 27, 1991. The day was engraved on my brain as what was taken away from me. Until I realized what had been given to me.
My father’s words were short. Monosyllabic, with the exception of my name and the reference to my mother. Six words. And the look on his face. O father, how can I ever repay you for the kindness you showed me that day?
I see now with memory’s bright eye what was given, and not just taken away. I see the courage my father stepped forth in. The courage my father modeled for me that day would be the courage I needed to fall back on, time and time again as my life began to unfold.
A dear friend’s suicide, days before I contemplated my own. My grandmother’s death, in place of bringing her a Pollo Bowl. Coming out to friends and family and more friends and more family and strangers and you. Stepping forth in the greatness that lies beneath the layers of fear and doubt, excited to be uncovered.
Next year will be twenty years since I lost my mother and gained my courage. Today, I fall back on the courage my father unfolded for me that day so many years ago.
June was Self-Evidence + Authenticity month here at Authentic Realities. This post is a belated part of my June blog challenge, which I invite you check out, if you’ve got a few minutes and it suits your fancy.