I remember, quite clearly, when my mom found out there was a Father-Daughter dance at my high school.
My response was a firm, and immediate, no, I'm not going.
My mom, trying her best to be supportive, I suppose, offered that I could take an uncle, a close family friend, or my grandpa. Maybe she was trying to let me know that it was okay with her; I don't know.
But the thought of attending a father-daughter dance, especially with someone other than my father, quite frankly made me nauseous. Luckily, my mom picked up on my feelings, and dropped the subject. She never brought it up again, in that year or any other.
Most of the time a mere mention of something father-daughter-y won't bother me. Especially at this point-- it's been over nine years at this point since my dad died, and some of the pain has faded with the memories.
But some things still hit me hard, and usually they hit me when I least expect it. One time this summer, I was walking back to my apartment and saw a man walking, holding hands with a little girl as she walked on the hill next to the sidewalk. They were probably twenty feet away, and the dad looked nothing like mine, but for some reason I was caught off-guard with what I guess could best be described as jealousy. And something as seeing simple as a father and daughter taking a walk together made me start crying.
I can't imagine going to a father-daughter dance. Not then, not now, not ever. Seeing all of my classmates with their dads, or dadly figures, enjoying quality time together, taking pictures together, and just... being together- it's about the last way I'd want to spend an evening.
And who would I bring? I love him, but my grandfather and I just aren't very close, and especially on a night when I was prone to getting upset, he'd not be my chosen companion. The one uncle in town that I'd consider would have gone with me in a heartbeat. He's wonderful, and he'd do his best to distract me all evening- but he's got his own daughter, and as great as he is, I just don't think of him at all in a fathery sense. There's also a close family friend, who's so close he's practically family... but the few times he's done somewhat fathery things, I feel almost like I'm betraying my dad. I know my dad wouldn't mind, but something wouldn't feel right about bringing anyone else to a 'dad' function.
Besides, some of the people I went to high school with had also gone to elementary school with me... and I didn't want anyone who knew that this wasn't my dad to ask who was with me, and to have awkward explanations. And I didn't want anyone who didn't know to assume that he was my dad. Sure, it'd avoid awkwardness, but it'd somehow feel fraudulent. Maybe if I'd had a stepfather or someone come into my life who I felt like sort of fit that 'fatherly' role, I would've been okay with them going along. But the way things were... I didn't even want to think about going. I was not going, and that was it.
There are some things, like this, that I'm just not going to do. I will not go to father-daughter dances, I will not have a father-figure walk me down the aisle at my wedding (if anyone, it will be my mother or brothers or something), I will not have a father-daughter dance when I get married (maybe some other sort of 'giving away' dance, but no, not that). I can barely bring myself to think about those type of things, most of the time, without crying.
The things that fathers traditionally do- even things normally hated by daughters, like interrogating a date before he takes you out- are things I miss. Well, not miss, I guess, because in a lot of cases... they're things I've never had, and things I never can. But I feel like I'm missing out, even if it's missing out of something negative, because things like that are a definite impossibility in my life.
And yet, if one of our close friends or one of my brothers tries to step into that role, I snap. It's nice, I guess, if they get protective or something- but I immediately go into nothing-can-replace-my-father mode, I have a really hard time appreciating the gesture rather than getting livid.
For a long time, I've told my mother, as my brothers have, that if she wants to date again, we're okay with it. That it might be hard for us at first, but we'll try to be supportive if it makes her happy, and that we'll know she's not trying to replace Daddy. I don't doubt that it would be really hard for me to deal with, especially at first, and that my brothers and I would be extremely judgmental of anyone she dated, but we've promised that we'd try to be accepting.
My mom has always said, though, that she doesn't want anyone else; Daddy was her 'one,' I guess, and she's just not interested in looking for another husband. I don't think anyone would think less of her if she did, and I don't think she'd worry that my dad would think less of her; if anything, I think she'd think less of herself. And I can see that-- even taking someone else to a silly dance would make me feel a little guilty. I worry about her being lonely sometimes, but most of the time, I try not to. My guess is that she's a lot like me.
There are times when I break down and sob until my stomach hurts and I feel like everything happened just yesterday and it's never getting better. But these times are rarer as time goes on, and I've learned how to deal with things in the way that allows me to best go on with everyday life. And no matter what is "okay" in other people's minds for you to do, I do what feels right to me.
I know it may not be the best way of dealing with things, but I guess it works okay. It's not great, but I can't imagine any way of grieving that wouldn't cause a sleepless night here or there.
Speaking of, I should try to get some sleep. Again.