I looked down at my bright pink flipflops as the water laps over my toes. In the distance I can hear my brother and dad talking about different types of fish. The sound of their fishing poles being cast out onto the lake. My younger sister playing in the water in-front of me. I couldn't have been older than ten years old.
Dad always took us to the lake during the summer. Our weekends with him were free of electronics and full of bonfires. Roasting marshmallows and camping in the RV on hot summer nights. At that age you never think about the future that much. I never did anyway. Was always so focused on what was happening in the moment. Even as I got older, I never really thought about it.
You look back and you really wish you knew what was going to happen. I look back at those now worn flipflops and think of him. The summer nights with him and my grandmother. Even the early Sunday mornings just to go to church with them. Going back to the house and grandma would make lunch.
Now, I am eight-teen years old sitting against the wall in my bedroom. Tears falling down my face after hearing the news of my father's passing. Time seeming as though it has frozen. Mom had already tried multiple times to get me to come out of my room. I can't think of anything, let alone getting up, other than those dumb flipflops. I used to wear them everywhere and now they just sit in my closet. 'Should have gotten rid of them years ago.' I thought to myself, finally looking at something else.
Closing my eyes, I am brought back to the lake. The sound of the waves breaking on the sand. I look down at my feet, expecting them to be small like they used to be. Instead, I'm still the grown woman he left behind. As I look back up at the water, I hear footsteps behind me. "Baby girl, you can't continue to sit around like this. It's not good for you." I hear his voice and I start crying again. "How? How can I not sit around and mourn when you're no longer with me?" I ask, turning to him to find his blue grey eyes looking down at me. Dad pulls me into a tight hug and rubs my back. "It will take time, but I know you will find a way to live through this. You're just like your mother. So strong willed and nothing ever keeps you down for very long." He says and pulls away from our embrace. "You, my angel, are one of the best things to ever happen to me. Never forget how proud I am of you. I love you more than you will ever know." With that said, he disappears and I wake up.
I sit there for a long time thinking about what just happened. Obviously it was a dream but it really stuck with me. Dad had always been the strong one out of us both. Teaching me the things I would need to know for later in life. To continue to threaten every man that tried to come into my life. Meet his grandchildren and be around for their birthdays and Christmas. Even get to watch me graduate high school next spring. Now his seat will forever remain cold and empty. Just like the hole he left in my heart the moment he left this world. Never to be filled ever again. No matter how many years passed and it got easier to handle.
Memories continue to fly across my mind. Sitting in the garage as he teaches me about small engines. Letting me help him work and giving me just a little bit of the pay. Just to end up taking me to the gas station to spend it on soda and candy. Sitting in the car and watching him take a coin and play some scratch off lottery tickets. Him giving me all the ones that win us a dollar. All the birthdays were he would spend the day with me. Just seeing him had been enough but as a kid the gift was definitely a bonus. On my thirteenth birthday he had gotten me this vintage glass carousel. I would go on to treat that thing like it was living. Never moving it from it's place on a high shelf. Freaking out if our cat got too close to it. Quick to shoo her out of my room and close the door. Feeling as though the moment it broke dad would really be gone for good.
As the last memory faded from my mind, I looked around and realized a few days had passed. I had been in my room for three days with no food or drink. Now, I was beginning to notice the hunger and thirst. Standing up, I head over to my bathroom and turn on the light. Seeing the dark circles under my eyes making it seem as my eyes had sunken in. In my room, I hear someone knock on my door. It was my little sister. "Mom wants to know if you're hungry." With a sigh, I nod and tell her I would be out in a moment. I still couldn't find the words to say to my family. I always felt obligated to have an answer for my younger siblings. Now, when I had none, I would have to explain to them why our father was no longer around.
At his funeral, I had tried to stay strong for my siblings and mother. The whole time his words repeating in my mind. No matter what comes my way, I will always get back up. As time rushes by I find his words very helpful. Many things in life tear us down and we don't always get back up. When we do is what matters the most. Fighting through our struggles and fears even if it pains us to do so. Dad taught me a great lesson the day he died. Is to never give up in what I want and that's exactly what I intend to do. First thing, going to get rid of those stupid flipflops.