When he left me, I somehow was able to remember you. And now that I’ve recognized, I see how he’s been a reflection of you. He drove me to sunsets, I first did that with you. He drove me to the edge, I first threw myself over for you. When did it become unsafe? When did I make the decision to never come close to an edge ever again? Whenever it occurred must have been the day I made the distinct choice to never confront what I couldn’t understand. But now, somehow, I’ve remembered you. I can recall life before I feared separation from every person I came to love. I now reminisce about the times before purposely withdrawing myself because I feared no one would beg me to stay.
I remembered those drives with you. Pulling over to feed the birds, sometimes from the palm of your hand, because I was getting older and had far more to fear. Needing you to buckle me in, and to make sure I caught glimpses of the ocean on the right, between the trees and passing of a Sunday morning Amtrak. Getting out of the car seemed more challenging at that age without you. So, I’d pretend to be asleep, persuading you to pick me up and hold me like fathers do. I imagine you would have done the same if I simply asked because I was precious and delicate to you, and you would have carried me anywhere. Then after you would lug me over the threshold, gently, and lay me down.
I would wait all of three seconds before waking from my fake slumber just to see you before you closed the door and I actually went to sleep. Some nights I would lay awake thinking about our day of driving. How we listened to songs with no lyrics and a dizzy rhythm that sometimes made me car sick and so we listened to whatever I wanted. I thought about feeling so safe seated right behind you and how I would thud my foot on the back of your seat to remind you I was there. You had softly asked me to stop, and I remember that hurt my feelings. But moments later, you were making plans to veer from the route to get us candy, and I fell in love with you all over again. Those drives are what I hold onto because I’m not quite sure why we ever let go. And I guess the real guilt is the feeling that really, only I did. I don’t know what happened after that, I grew up and got kinda scared. No one felt safe, not even you.
He drove me to sunsets, and we passed our relationship peaks in the car, just like you and I. By then, I had already forgotten you, so I rejected his need to continually meet the end of each day. Night after night he’d beg me to get in the car with him and chase the sunset. So I would go, but I couldn’t feel safe, and so I would find some way to ruin it, to forget that it had actually been the only thing in life I wanted back. But still, he’d return, no matter how much I fought, he always sought an edge, something to fascinate him and take his breath away. He marveled about how nature could make him feel so small. Its allure crushed him, yet that was his ecstasy. But I couldn’t recognize such strength, and I would go on not remembering you. Sometimes he was the version of you I didn’t want, I realize that. He was hard to grasp, unable to be saved, yet welcoming of my every attempt to try. You both craved my love in desperate ways. I thought I had to choose, so I left you and found him. But I couldn’t elicit those drives with you, my love for you, and so now he drives on without me. Now I can’t captivate him like I captivated you. He doesn’t forgive me or admire my growth the way you do. When I cry, he doesn’t pick me up and place me safe in his arms, he doesn’t see me as delicate or believe me, or trust I’ll get better like you promise. I think he forgets about me sometimes and replaces me with bigger and better dreams. You always made me feel like I was your most notable dream come true.
I’ve really messed this up, dad. And all because I couldn’t bring you back. Why was I able to so easily forget you? To forget the girl I was when I was loving you? I suppose I felt that kind of love wasn’t meant for me, unreal in many lights. I saw you broken and hurt, misunderstood, and abandoned. And a little girl should be careful about seeing her father in such a way that might make her forget. She might forget that pain is only what makes us strong and that her protector will always be the strongest man she knows. He will always hold her and uplift her. He will offer his arm if hers stopped working for a moment and remind her where to look when she claims life has no more beauty. I remembered how I needed you sometimes to carry me the rest of the way when I was all out of my “know it all” things to say when I admitted defeat and couldn’t love another man. I remembered what really mattered, that I loved and was loved by you.
I remember now.