Fathers and Daughters

Today is my father’s birthday. I was born two weeks earlier, at the end of February, which makes us both Pisces.

I used to think that was about the only thing we had in common.

When I was a little girl, I worshipped my dad. He was a runner, so I ran, too. He filled bookshelf after bookshelf with history books, so I read historical fiction. He wrote in a script so beautiful it could’ve belonged to a calligrapher, so I carefully practiced my penmanship and modeled my handwriting after his. When I was sifting through family photos with my mom last December, I found a snapshot of the two of us - my dad and me - at a footrace in the nineties. He was wearing his number pinned to the front of his singlet and doing a pre-race stretch, angling his body against the back of our station wagon for support. He was so tall. Still is, which is what I always say when people comment on my height. And there I was, all wild blonde hair barely coming up to his knees, pressing my tiny hands against the car bumper as I tried to imitate him. That image says it all.

When I grew up, though, we grew apart. We argued a lot. For the longest time, I thought that the reason we butted heads so often is because we were just too different. I didn’t understand him, and like a typical angsty teenager, I assumed that he didn’t understand me either. (Admittedly, he probably didn’t sometimes.) This disconnect between us persisted for years, though he continued to support me and show me affection and I continued to try to maintain a positive relationship with him. Eventually, I realized something.

It’s not that we’re too different. It’s that we’re so much alike. 

Once I understood that truth, I started to recognize all the parts of myself that come from my father. As teenagers rebel against their parents, so must young adults turn into them, I suppose. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. Only after many years of conflict was I able to grow enough to accept that I am my father’s daughter, in both good ways and bad. Flaws and virtues alike have flowed from him to me, sometimes so obviously that I can’t believe I didn’t notice the commonalities sooner. I am glad for this. Despite the problems we've had, I am lucky to have a father who loves and encourages me in so many ways.

This morning, a letter from my dad arrived at my home in southern Spain, written as always in that elegant longhand. He reassured me that even though I often feel lost, I am where I am meant to be. He asked me to trust the process. Which is, I guess, exactly what I did with him over so many years.

Today is my father’s birthday, and I am my father’s daughter.