06/17/2012 03:50 pm ET Updated Aug 17, 2012

My Dad Never Told Me He Loved Me -- and That's Perfectly Fine

I'm not really superstitious, but Friday the 13th hit a little harder this year than usual. My dad died April 13th in 2001, a Friday. This year, April 13 fell on a Friday again, the first time in 11 years. I know that doesn't really mean anything, but it somehow managed to put me in a weird funk for most of that day.

It feels very recent. The guy certainly made an impression. Not because of who he was -- a professor with four masters' degrees and a doctorate, from three different countries, paid for entirely with several well-deserved scholarships -- but because of other things that don't really have to do with any of that.

I still think of him several times every day. Not in a sad or painful way. Not like those sentimental scenes in the movies with dads and their kids laughing together in the sunlight on the playground covered in face paint and pretty ribbons or whatever. And definitely not in a spiritual, religious, or woo-woo kind of way where he's watching out for me from above. It's comfortable -- simple, vivid flashbacks of boring, everyday stuff, like him sitting on a couch reading the paper and yawning because it's late. Or walking around the mall looking bored out of his mind while my mom does the shopping. Really useless, mundane, everyday shit like that. Maybe the comfortable meh-ness is what makes the virtuality of his day-to-day existence in my head feel so organic.

And in my dreams, he's always alive. Any time I have a dream with my family in it, he's there like he always was. Two of his kids have kids of their own now, grandchildren who he never met. But in the dreams, he's talking to them, playing with them like he's been there the whole time. The closest it ever got to feeling like he was dead in one of my dreams is once, when we all thought he was dead, but it turned out he'd just run off to Zanzibar where he was hiding in anonymity with a new wife. And I remember thinking, "Thank God he's okay." And then I woke up and he was still dead.

It's not that there aren't nice, sentimental memories -- it's just that you probably wouldn't see them that way unless you were there.

See, my dad never actually told me he loved me. He never called me "son" and never kissed me even once that I can remember. The only time he hugged me and my siblings was once right before he was wheeled into the OR for cardiac bypass surgery. He got through it, but he was nervous. I was a senior in high school. You'd think I would remember that day because of the surgery -- you don't exactly go through that every day. But I remember it more because he actually hugged us. That was rarer.

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