I miss my father’s hugs; his beer gut that’s yet to fade even with 23 years of sobriety, the tickle of his beard on the top of my head, his callused hands from years of playing guitar wrapped tight around me. I miss the quiet whispers of "it’s okay" as the hairs on his chin scratched my cheek. I miss when I was allowed to stain his shirts with hot tears, the silent understanding that the talking could be done later, comfort now. When he wouldn’t abandon anxious situations. When he wouldn’t duck out for a cigarette. When things weren’t left to be dealt with later. When my sobs weren’t lost in the darkness of my room at three am. When hugs weren’t traded for pats on the back and promises never kept.
I miss my father’s tears; when his children’s heartbreak broke his own. I miss when my father’s face showed emotions other than stoic nonchalance and sad, tight-lipped smiles. I miss the knowledge that I would never have to cry alone, that my father would always be there to cry with me and take some of the pain off of my shoulders, if only for a little while. When his tears weren’t wasted on insignificant things like a woman who hasn’t ever loved him enough. When his tears flowed freely and without regret or shame, like a true man. When the floodgates to his emotions were always open, never under a thick padlock like they are now.
I miss my father’s hands; his nightly routine of scratching my back before bed. I miss him tucking me in just after a cigarette in the winter, cold and covered in a fresh layer of smoke. I miss his fingertips stained in ink and dry from turning the pages of his favorite book. I miss freshly lotioned hands, a fruitless effort to rid of the callouses that had made home there. When he wasn’t too busy answering calls and texts from a woman who can’t be pleased. When his fingers weren’t almost permanently fitted around a cigarette. When he still made a point to find time to turn the pages of his books.
I miss my father’s attention; when he could engage in pointless conversations for hours and have the best time. I miss being able to chat about stupid things for the hell of it. I miss venting about my shitty day at work. I miss knowing I could go to him about anything and everything, no matter what. I miss inside jokes and laughing until our stomachs hurt. When his time wasn’t taken up by his new dramatic family. When he made time, no matter how busy his schedule, to ask how my day was. When he found enjoyment in asking and learning about my current interests. When he wouldn’t block me out when a sore subject was brought up.
I miss my father; loving and dependable. I miss knowing that I had the best father in the world, one my friends were envious of. I miss his undying love and constant support. I miss his open mind, always eager to learning about new things, even those of which he didn’t understand. I miss him needing me as much as I need him. When his world revolved around his children and their happiness and health and safety. When he took pride in not only my accomplishments, but also helping me overcome my downfalls. When he he couldn’t leave without hugging me and telling me he loves me. When he still hugged me and told me he loved me at all.
I miss my father, but now all that remains is the shell of the man he used to be.