The last time I saw my father was two years ago at my sister's wedding.
The time before that was the year prior on his last day in Florida before moving to Minnesota to start a new life. We had our goodbye at one of our favorite places in Florida, the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens.
We've been going to this same museum for years. For festivals, walks around the grounds, feeding koi fish, admiring the meticulously maintained bonsai trees. The sun peaked through the clouds and the South Florida humidity made my hair frizz and my clothes stick to my body.
How do you say goodbye to your dad? We bought some brown pellets of fish food and tossed it into the lake. The macaroni orange and satin white and black-spotted koi fish opened their large mouths, as if to give an answer to this question, only to swallow instead. The fish lingered until our bags were empty. We watched the koi swim away.
I didn't know how to broach the conversation. My boyfriend at the time had nudged me and reminded me that this was the last time I was going to see my dad in... his voice trailed. I didn't know when I would see my dad next. There was an abruptness to it. Was there a way to sum up unspoken conversations into meaningful last words?
Divorce, when it happens -- whether it's your parents, your friends, or celebrities -- makes you question some things. Why did they break up? Will they find love again? Will you ever fall in love, or in love again? What the hell is love, anyway?
I was angry and hurt for a long time. Not to mention confused. During one of my fiction workshop classes at college, one classmate had written a short story about divorce and the fictional reaction of it from a late-twenties character. But something was off about it. The character didn't really feel anything. The author had explained it was because divorce is easier to digest when you get older. But myself and other classmates had disagreed. We argued that divorce is never easy. Pain is still pain, no matter the age.
A friend and I were talking later about relationships and she said that there are only two possible outcomes: you get married or you break up. Or after marriage you break up and the cycle starts all over again.
Maybe love isn't for everyone.
Then again, maybe there is love for everyone, but you don't know it until you see it, or until after the last remnants have dissipated into the air and you are only left with memories of the past.
My dad and I talked and said goodbye, but it wasn't a goodbye to our relationship. It was a goodbye to our old life, to living in the stereotypical suburban family home. It was the beginning of the disintegration of my idea that marriage is forever, that love is forever.
Some things that break are irreparable, while others are still able to be mended and restored, though it has a different luster to it, a different hue.
My dad and I saw each other again at my sister's wedding and it was a joyous occasion tinged with sadness, a marriage of two young people so close to the finalized divorce of the generation before. I'm happy that my sister is happy. I'm glad that we can find happiness in the bittersweet conclusion of divorce. We're still a family who loves each other, even if we don't see each other or talk to each other every day.
My dad and I talk weekly, or if we can't get a hold of one another, we email. We talk about writing and books and movies. After every phone call, I have a list of movies to watch, books to think about. Have you read that James N. Frey book yet? Have you seen Divergent? How was it compared to the book? What are you writing next?
Growing up, my dad was the one who drove me to and picked me up from soccer games and practices. He'd wait up for me to come home after I'd hang out with friends in high school, regardless if it was 10 p.m. or 2 a.m. He'd insist that no matter where I was or whatever the circumstances, if I needed a ride home, I could call and he'd be there. There was a foundation of trust that we had, but it had crumbled. It's only recently that we're picking up the pieces, making a new, stronger support system.
When my sister told him that I moved to New York and was going to be living in Brooklyn, he was concerned for my safety, thinking about when he was living up in 1970s New York. She assured him that it's much better now, that I'm living in an "up-and-coming" area of Brooklyn that's going to be as hip as Williamsburg.
Time changes places and changes people. I haven't been to the Morikami since our goodbye. I have never been to Minnesota. I visited Florida for the holidays this past year and there were a few times that I drove by the Morikami and wanted to go inside. I was worried: What if it had changed? What if I didn't recognize it? What if I no longer liked the museum? I realized this was the wrong perspective to have. The Morikami would always be the same; I would be the one to have changed, to have grown, to see it with new eyes and new experiences.
My dad and I love the book Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. Toward the end of it, there's a conversation between the protagonist and another character, and they talk about whether the protagonist will ever see Stargirl again. The other character, in response, says, "Big Country. Small World. Who knows?"
I think forgiveness and acceptance are the hardest emotions to express and face. To make a true, sincere apology is not an easy thing, nor is it any easier to acknowledge that life changes. I've forgiven. I've accepted.
I won't see my dad on Father's Day. Instead, we'll have a long phone call. I don't know when we're going to see each other again, but we're going to make plans soon. There's a lot to catch up on.