My dad’s 70th birthday is next month. He’s a decade younger than Willie Nelson, a decade older than my therapist, two decades older than Julianne Moore, and three decades older than I am.
70 sounds like a big number– not quite scary for a daughter, but almost.
We’re planning a big celebration down in Texas– me and my siblings and all of our families will meet our parents at a rustic resort outside of Austin, which is something we’ve done exactly zero times. We haven’t been big on “everyone visit at once” in my family, unless it’s for a wedding. Even for funerals and baptisms, there was usually someone missing. More times than I liked to count, the missing member was me.
But in this new era of Christie Shows Up, I come to family events, quietly trying to make up for all the time I lost because I was busy being lost and that particular kind of 20- and 30-something selfish. I pretend like I can get those years back by being a good and present daughter (to them and for myself) now. I don’t believe, but I still hope it’s true.
I fantasize about getting the perfect present for my dad. If I could just have a few hours to think about it or search for it on a folksy, Texas-based website I could find the thing I can picture in my heart, the gift that says: I’m going to keep this light, but just know that this is full of meaning and gravitas I can only hint at, and PS: I’m half sick for all the time that was squandered.
What is the thing that says that to your dad?
At night I think poke around on the Internet searching for that something. Then I think about this little store over in Pilsen where they might have something meaningful, but I don’t know how to get there between the play date with Lily, the writing conference, the haircuts, and swimming lessons.
Can it really be true I don’t have time to do this?
No. It’s not true.
The truth is that the thing I am looking for doesn’t exist. Unless you think a time machine exists with the ability to give me back the years between 1991 when I gave him a bottle of Canoe cologne for his birthday from Eckerd’s Drug Store and 2008(ish), when I learned to show up as an adult child.
The thing I am looking for is not a thing. It’s a feeling. Or a representation of a feeling. It’s a mashed up ball of nostalgia, regret, love, gratitude, grace and sorrow that sits on my heart like a tumor, fucking up my circadian rhythm. And they don’t sell that at thrift stores, even in the edgier sections of town.
But if they did, I’d buy two. One for me and one for my dad. And on the card, I’d write the only words I know that match gift: “Thank you for the gifts you gave me. I’m so grateful I recognized them as soon as I did. I wish it were easier to say all the things I want to say. I’ll keep trying.”