Five years ago, right after Veteran’s Day I lost someone very important to me. My dad. He was someone who always believed in me and supported me in whatever I tried to do.
|My dad and me and our dog, Freckles|
He’d had Parkinson’s Disease and genetic heart problems for many years. It was difficult seeing him the last ten years of his life as he had always been a very active person prior. He used to run way back when they still called it jogging. He was one of the first people to waterski barefoot and was even offered a job at Cypress Gardens. Unfortunately, he was drafted and spent the next two years in Alaska. Not much waterskiing there.
In those last years I used to visit him in the nursing home, hoping he’d remember who I was. Usually he did. If he didn’t, it was because he thought I was his sister, Jeanne. I did resemble her so I was never upset.
My dad had written a few books and attempted to get them published so when I told him I had gotten a story in an anthology, he was thrilled. I remember bringing the print copy to his room and showing him my story with my picture in it. Then I signed it and gave it to him. When one of the nurses came in, he told them about my book and said I had dedicated it to him. Well, I hadn’t since mine was only one of twenty-three stories, but I never said a word and allowed him to believe that.
I went to visit him on Veteran’s Day 2015, and he was remarkably lucid and in good spirits. He always seemed to 'wake up' when we talked about my writing. We chatted about my upcoming book that I had contracted with Kensington Publishing. He was so proud and happy for me. Before I left, something made me hug him and kiss him half a dozen times and repeatedly tell him I loved him. More than I typically did.
Two days later, I got the call he had passed. Not until after the Patriots had won and he had finished his dinner. Then he just took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Just the way we should all leave this world. At peace. And I was, too. I had said my goodbyes and knew he was aware of how much he meant to me.
Several months later, I actually had a dream where he called me. He was surrounded by his family and wanted to let me know, "I've never felt better!" And his voice was strong just like it used to be. I truly believe he had sent that message so our family could also be at peace.
When my first book came out, of course the dedication was special.
To my Mom for always allowing me to steal her romance novels from her ‘done’ pile. And for my Dad who always encouraged and believed in me. I hope you can look down now and see how much I’ve accomplished. Because you had faith in me.
I know if he was here now, he’d be beaming at all the books I’ve since written.
In my book Elusive Dreams, Tessa was raised in foster care. Her husband, Erik, did some digging using an old picture she had. When he digs up information on her parents, she isn’t sure how she feels.
“Your dad wanted you to know he started searching for you as soon as he found out. And that he loved you, even then.”
A father. Who loved her. Had loved her for years. How to handle this. Could she even believe it? She’d never had anyone love her. Too many years of being told she was unlovable had closed her heart to that kind of emotion. Except now she loved Matty and Kiki, and they loved her back.
And she loved Erik. Being held in his arms like this had her hoping maybe he could love her too. But he’d known her for too long. Seen her as her total freak self. Some things you couldn’t un-know.
“He wants to meet you, Tess. But said he’d understand if you couldn’t forgive him for deserting you and your mom. I don’t think that’s what he did, but he’s got some major guilt eating away at him. I’m sure he wouldn’t want you to know, but he was crying when he realized he’d finally found where you were and that you were alive and well. You’re named after his mother, by the way.”
“He cried? Over me?” Someone had cried over her. No one had ever done that.
The sobs shaking her body couldn’t be stopped. How many times had she envisioned meeting her parents and having them be hysterically happy to find her? Too many and she’d convinced herself she was delusional even thinking it. But her father wanted to meet her.
“Yeah, he never stopped looking. But he didn’t know who he was looking for. Or even if you were still alive. He never lost hope that he’d find you though. I showed him a picture of you. He said you look just like your mother.”
“He wants to meet me.” Her chest constricted at the thought. She looked up at his handsome face, so concerned for her. “What if he doesn’t like me?” she sobbed. “What if he sees that I’m a freak? I don’t know if I can do this, Erik.” Too many rejections in the past had colored her thinking.
“You’re not a freak, and you know it.” He’d put on his fierce Marine face. “And he already loves you, Tessa. When he sees how sweet and perfect you are, he’ll love you even more. You have that effect on people.”
Not on you, though. Swirling thoughts ran through her mind. Her dad, Erik, the kids. Too many and too intense. Okay, focus on one thing at a time. Her dad.
“I have a dad. And he loves me.” Or says he does. She still wasn’t sure she believed it.
She hadn’t meant to say that out loud. Erik slipped his fingers through her hair and kissed her cheeks. “You do, sweetie. You do.”
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