NYT Runner-Up for First Prize

“Dad said he will take me to the pool next weekend,” I told mom after hanging up the call, but we both knew, “next weekend” would soon become next-next weekend until no one brought it up again. 

Dad was always busy. Even in the hours we had together, he’s either suit-up ready for meetings or hung over from the night before. His men’s cologne may have lingered,  but he was never with me. As years passed, I grew from a naive child who believed in the broken promises to a teen not knowing how to interact with my familiar but distant father. 

“Why Would My Father Not Want to Know Me?” was the same question I pondered over in my childhood. While Tara Ellison didn’t know who her father was, I didn’t know where my father was. As she struggled to find peace within herself for their struggling relationship, I saw the shadows of my own efforts. I, too, took part in the “painful, silent affairs” of dinners alone with my dad and “awkward phone calls,” consisting of a repertoire of topics ranging from schoolwork to housework. I, too, struggled to call him “dad” to his face and opted for the less obligatory, less formal “daddy.” 

Yet, as I observed her efforts to reconnect with her father, I saw the light at the end of my dark tunnel, the possibility of a genuine relationship, even if patched up and imperfect. Though those vacant years without him may never be replenished, one day, I hope I can utter Dad, “lots of love to you” like Tara did, and feel his presence in the cologne. 

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