The bond between a father and his daughter. Image by: Getty Images
My dad and I had the worst fight of our lives, all because I was jealous of his soon-to-be wife.
My parents went through a rocky separation when I was two years old, and I spent the rest of my youth basking in my dad’s attention, believing that my brother and I were at the centre of his world. He’d throw towels in the dryer so we would be toasty-warm after showers and bring me flowers every time I performed in a school play. He even took me as his date to work dinners—and to Italy once when I was 11. We argued a lot (like, a lot a lot) and were both incredibly stubborn, but I worshipped him and would have done anything to make him proud.
Then, one night when I was 22, our relationship, once so precious to me, developed a crack.
The ring sparkled from across the room as my dad’s soon-to-be wife, Bonnie, showed off her diamond at our family Christmas party. It was supposed to be a happy surprise, but I could only think that my dad had betrayed me, the most important girl in his life. My dad had never indicated his plan to propose, nor had he asked me for help picking out the ring. Christmas dinner, when Bonnie held out her hand to my amma (“amma” is “grandma” in Icelandic), was my first introduction to the prospect of a new stepmother.
It had been one of those years—the kind that makes you want to burrow under a pile of blankets to eat ice cream and pray that things will magically look brighter when you emerge. My dad’s house had burned down after an electrical fire started in the basement, and he’d been living on the other side of the city with his girlfriend and her kids. We hadn’t seen each other much because we were both so busy, and the added distance didn’t help, plus I was suffering from health issues that later required surgery. To top it off, my afi (or grandfather) had been diagnosed with liver cancer, so we knew it would be his last Christmas.
My afi passed away in January—a few weeks after the ring reveal—and my beloved amma followed him in July, a month before I moved to Toronto to complete my master’s degree. It was a horrible time for my dad, and for me, and the anticipation of my departure from my hometown, plus the tension created from his engagement, came to a head the week before I packed my bags. We fought, nastily—irreparably, I thought. Then, we didn’t speak for seven months.
I can’t remember exactly how we got back in touch, but I think my dad called me one day because his wedding was coming up and he wanted me to be a part of it. Not even my pride (or jealousy) could keep me away. I flew home to help with last-minute wedding preparations and tried to be polite to Bonnie—who was quite nice, it turned out. But my relationship with my dad still felt tentative and strained.
I had mixed feelings the night of the wedding. Even though I strangely felt like I was being replaced, I was happy that my dad had found someone to be excited about. My brother and I walked my dad down the aisle, smiled in family photos and talked with all my dad’s friends.
Later in the night, Bonnie had her father-daughter dance. Since my dad had lost his mom the year before, there would be no mother-son dance for him. So I walked over and asked if he would dance with me instead. We hugged for the first time in a long time. With all of the mixed emotions, the stress, the pretty music—whatever the trigger—I started bawling my eyes out on my dad’s shoulder, wailing about how much I had missed him. Everyone was watching, and I hid my face, unable to stop crying.
I think he learned in that moment just how much I loved him and that he was the guy in my life. And even though our relationship would never be the same as in my childhood—I was grown up and a two-hour plane ride away; he’d abandoned me to marry his wife (I’m kidding, guys; I’m over it)—we both realized that we had a special daddy-daughter bond that would never, ever go away.