My father, Donald Charles Richardson, died on Wednesday.
As you may know (or will know) that my father was a big part of my story in Gorge.
A memoir is a series of woven stories to tell a snapshot of time. Gorge focuses squarely on my third Kilimanjaro trek and my relationship with food.
I called my dad over the summer to tell him that I wrote honestly about our relationship in the hopes that others would be able to heal or learn from our story. Most importantly, I told him that in the process of writing I learned the reason his absence after my parents split was so painful was because I loved him so dearly.
It took me a long time to be able to face that because for decades I carried it with a veil of anger and resentment. In fact, it wasn't until June -- when I was finishing my book that I was fully able to open my heart and put that feeling on the page. He was the person I adored most in life. I was Daddy's girl and continue to be, whether he was there or not.
That clarity has allowed me to move forward from point of love. I am so grateful I came to that conclusion and was able to tell him that in the months before he died.
Also, through the process of writing, I was able to understand his path. His mother married five times (after his own dad abandoned him) to stay afloat. He went to 17 different schools as a kid. I mean, imagine how hard that must have been. Imagine.
In addition to that heartache, he also carried a tremendous amount of pain with him -- from being shot in Vietnam, his first heart attack (of three) 46 years ago when he was told he had 6 months to live.
He went to great lengths to research deep into his geneology to understand our descendants all the way back to Scotland in the 16th century. He wanted desperately to connect to something. I don't blame him.
I should tell you, that even though years could go by without seeing my father, he made a point to visit weeks after each of my daughters was born. He sat and held them long and lovingly for the few days he was there.
These past few nights, I've tried to stitch together the memories that I have of him. Since I didn't spend much time with my father after my parents split when I was 9, I have only a few disconnected memories. One that stands most bold and bright and my mind is the times that he made me watch Man of La Mancha, the story of Don Quixote.
I've been watching this YouTube clip again and again, thinking about why he was so insistent for me to see it.
Now I see how the words and impossible dream was his mantra of sorts and this story, that he has passed to me has given me strength and power to face adversity, whether I'm on the mountain or not.
As I whether the ebb and flow of grief that has come my way since Wednesday, I can be grateful for the love I had for him and the love he had for me (even from afar), which he showed me the best he could.
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
And to run where
the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong
And to love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star
This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march,
march into hell
For that heavenly cause
And I know
If I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart
Will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest
And the world will be
better for this
That one man, scorned
and covered with scars,
Still strove with his last
ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable,
The unreachable star
And I'll always dream
The impossible dream.
Be peaceful and calm, Dad. You are loved and you are missed.