I first met my Daddy in a gas station parking lot when I was nine years old. My first thought was, “This can’t be my father; I don’t look like him at all.”
Then I saw him again when I was 11.
My face changed as I matured, but even still, it did not register anything that I thought came close to Daddy’s likeness.
When I was 26, Daddy called to tell me he had cancer and as the years wore on, the disease wasted his once-large frame.
The Daddy I’d always known had a big round face, framed by thick, long, black curls and topped with a stylish cowboy hat. However, all of this was stripped away when I saw him again last February.
Seeing Daddy in that room at the coroner’s was like seeing Daddy for the first time all over again.
However, this time…
…this time, I saw how this man’s features were reflected in my own.
For 31 years of my life, I had assigned the traits of my face that weren’t my Momma’s to unknown ancestors. It made more sense to assume that the unfamiliar parts of me came from some bygone genetics than from the man that gave me half of my chromosomes.
But as I stared into his face now slimmed by disease, I saw the giver of my forehead, my lips, the sharp curve in my temples.
Suddenly, a window in my heart flew open, the same window that should have opened back when I was 9 years old. All I needed back then was to see how I was connected to that stranger at the gas station who was so happy to meet me. Suddenly, I was finally ready to learn all about this stranger, ready to be his daughter.
But I was too late.
I’ll never know what he liked on his hamburger, what his favorite time of year was, what his favorite childhood memory was, how he looked like when he brushed his teeth.
Daily, human things. Deep spiritual things. Both I will not get to share with my Daddy.
Still, I am thankful that he gave me little reminders of himself when I look in the mirror each morning.
Years and conversations are not ours to share, but at least we can share a jawline.