I had him all to myself on Sunday afternoons.
I would sit through the laboriously long church service, distracting myself with the counting of pews or fantasies about getting up on stage and belting out some amazing tune, which with my singing voice, was really dreaming the impossible.
My legs, scratchy against the rusty orange pilling dotting the 70’s upholstered pews, would get tired from the constant pull of my knees to keep modest and not flash everyone in my Sunday dress. The sanctuary was stuffy, the air thick while the ceiling fans spun warm drafts lazily overhead.
To this day, I have no idea who the pastor was, what he looked like, or a single message during any of the Sundays I attended. But still, I never missed.
Every week, I would rise early to attend church with my dad. Anyone who knows me is aware that mornings and I are not on the best of terms. But this was important.
This was during a period when my mother worked the night-shift at the hospital and tried to cram in sleep during her early hours home, before one of us would accidentally wake her. My brother was often with friends or sleeping in.
After returning from the mission field and becoming disillusioned with America church, it wasn’t a huge family priority, but that’s a different post, or two.
Still, I went faithfully. Because after church, my dad would take me out to lunch.
We often went to a local Vietnamese restaurant which I have yet to find it’s equal. We would sit across from each other in the vinyl booth. And he would see me. Ask me about my life, my day, my interests.
I would sip my Sprite and he would drink his Vietnamese coffee and we would linger on our words.
I had his full attention.
Later, we no longer went to church and Sundays were spent with friends as far from my father as I could get.
Later, I resented him and his ministries and his humanity. I hated the patience he had for everyone else’s problems while serving in comparison to the burnt out glaze of the television reflecting in his eyes as I tried to recount my day.
Later, I stopped telling him about the A+ I got on my biology test, or the fight I’d had with my best friend or the heart that was slowly dying, while smiling pretty and wearing my mask.
And instead of vying for his attention, I found it elsewhere. With mindless boys and tight clothes, with the rush of energy that comes from tiny pills that go down easy and feel so good and fists balled angry at God. Angry at my father and my life and my pain.
And I no longer wished for Sundays with my dad. But oh, how I needed them then.
And that’s all done with now, my dad is home with the Lord, and I see my little girls face light up when my husband pulls her close and tells her how creative she is, and how her pictures look just like a real princess. I see her push in close to that hollow under his arm and the look on her face, she knows she belongs. And I hope she can always find that spot. I hope he never forgets how much she needs it.