I'm missing things in advance again. Like going to Goldberg's on a Friday afternoon for chocolate malts and chili cheese fries with my Dad. Goldberg's is one of the few honest places left in this world, owned by the same folks as long as mine have been married. They replaced their front windows and put in a new patio seating area this year, but the inside has remained the same since the early Eighties. They still make their malts in those frosted metal cups, and chili cheese fries with homemade chili and unnaturally orange cheese. It's awful and wonderful and where will I find it again? But it's the fact that I go there with my Dad, usually when we ought not to, like this Friday when he took the afternoon off early just because I was in town.
My Dad is a big bear of a man. He's also a twelve-year old girl. He likes football and basketball and action movies. He also owns all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls. I am a Daddy's Girl, but I was never a girly girl, except for one short year when I was in ninth grade. We had a Ukrainian exchange student, Lena. She taught me how to wear makeup, put on a bra properly, and smoke. She and I and my friend Christy used to go to the mall every weekend. Dad would take us, and he never got tired or bored. We'd come home three hours later and I'd show my Mom the latest neon, midriff-baring band aid I'd acquired, and she would always frown and ask Dad "Why did you let her get that?"
"What? It looks good, she likes it, and that's what's in style." He'd just smile and shrug and go downstairs to read his latest science fiction novel and watch whatever game was on.
My Dad always had a good sense of style, especially for someone who never wears anything other than jeans and work shirts. But I'd trust him to shop for me more than any other person I know.
All my girlfriends love Dad and all my guy friends are slightly scared of him, which makes us all smile. He never had to be protective of me, not that I ever felt he wasn't. In a lot of ways I grew up quick, but in other ways I skipped most fathers' nightmares, like high-school dating, drinking, and partying. He never had any nervous young men in their Sunday ties waiting in the living room to intimidate. And now, when he knows I have relationships, he doesn't lecture or frown, or ask reproving questions. He just takes me out for a malt at the best place in town.
Every time I find something to add to my "miss list", I think of how grateful I am. I try to anyway. I try to think about attachment and aversion and suffering. I try to say thanks and remind myself there will be other joys along with the griefs. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes I scold myself. I'm not even gone yet, after all.
Sometimes all that's left to say is "Thanks for the fries and the malt, Dad," when what I really mean is "Thanks for being my Dad."