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  • Writer's pictureShannon Duskie

Intentionally Built

I don't talk too much about my relationship with my dad and even as I sit down to write this, I'm trying to unfilter my brain and just let the words flow. It’s scary because if he does end up finding this and reading it - which will most likely be because someone else read it and told him about it - I don’t want him to be hurt. Rather - I hope he sees how far we’ve come and accepts the reality of what once was.

I couldn't help myself. When I looked over and saw this, I had to take out my phone in the middle of church service and snap a picture. As I look at it today, I ask myself why I love it so much. I love the relationship I now have with my dad. I'm proud of us both for having intentionally built it. I love seeing him be a Papa.

When I say intentionally built, there is true meaning behind those words. My parents divorced when I was in 5th grade. Though we remained in the same town, I mostly remember him not being around. Working a lot. Drinking. I think it started hitting me harder in high school. Calling him to let him know that I had a home tennis meet, basketball game, promenade. Inviting him to things and mostly getting the response, “I’ll have to see where I’m at.” Hoping that he would make it and telling myself it didn’t matter if he did.

I vividly remember the weekend that I dropped a letter off at his house when I knew that he wasn’t home asking him to decide. Either be in my life or don’t - because I couldn’t really handle all of the in between bullshit. At 19 years old, I felt like I was the one who was continuously trying to have a relationship and it was not being reciprocated. I couldn’t continue to keep trying and keep feeling rejected. Rejection is such a hard emotion. It was the weekend of Fort Harker Days. The weekend that my Grandma Marge actually won the community service award. I saw him that afternoon. When we took a family photo, I refused to stand by him. Later that night, he called and we got into a full-on screaming match. I left to go back to Manhattan that night.

I’ve connected the dots on where this rejection has shown up in my adult life. I found myself phrasing questions to Drew in a certain way. For example - rather than saying “Do you want to go to the lake?” I would say, “You don’t want to go to the lake today, do you?” Almost in a way that prompted him to say NO right away so that I wouldn’t have to be rejected. He pointed it out to me one day and I really dug into where that might be coming from and have since made a huge effort to correct myself.

Time passed and I’m not really sure what happened, where or when it started - but overtime, things got better. He would call me to invite me out to the house. We would sit in the garage while he nervously chain-smoked cigarettes and talked non-stop about anything he knew about. It was uncomfortable, but overtime, he and I both got more comfortable. A year or so later, I even joined him and Mitch on a snowmobiling trip out to Colorado. Gradually things became what they are today.

He calls me more often than I remember to call him. I’ll text him every now and then just to say - Thinking about you today! Love you! - knowing that he got it but his old-ass phone and fingers don’t text back. He’ll drive the corvette up to Cawker City every now and then, and when he does, I always make sure that our air filter in the house is fresh because I know that’s the first thing he’s going to look at!

When I introduced him to Drew for the first time, they instantly bonded over plaid pearl snap shirts and cigarettes. Ever since I joke with Drew telling him I’m pretty sure my dad likes him more than me! If only plaid shirts and cigarettes were my thing, right?

I remember calling to invite him to Samson’s baptism almost two years ago. His initial response was, “Just tell me what time and I’ll be there.” I will remember it forever because it was completely opposite of “I’ll see where I’m at."

Anytime I am in Ellsworth on a Saturday morning, I know he’ll be eating breakfast at the steakhouse and Sam and I join him - usually someone else joins our table as well and I love it! Getting to know him more over the last decade, I now see and acknowledge personality traits that have come from him. One of them being that we both really like talking to just about everyone (hence, the random breakfast guest).

It’s been a long journey to get to where we are and I am so very grateful for what it is.

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