I was overcome with emotion this past Sunday.
For a year my Canon t5i sat on my dresser at my grandparents' house collecting dust. I brought it to Jared's last year where it then sat for another year in it's camera bag collecting dust. I just didn't have the will to use it...actually, I lacked the freedom.
When I was in elementary school, I am guessing around 9 years old, I remember walking out to my dad's car from my grandparents' house. He must have been picking me up for something. As I got into the car, I remember thanking my dad for something. My stepmom then replied with, "you only love your dad when he buys you things."
These words stung. My 9 year old self knew this wasn't true. But if someone else thought it, then maybe it was. I was too young to decipher what was truth and untruth. So there these words sat in the back of my mind for the next 18 years.
Truthfully, I was never able to let myself truly appreciate anything my dad bought me from that point on. Those words stuck to my heart and mind like glue. In my mind, if I enjoyed what my dad bought me, then that would reflect how I only loved him when he bought me things. I believed this to be the truth. The amount of guilt I felt when he bought me anything actually caused me anxiety. In fact, I feel anxiety right now as I write this about how I felt when he would buy me things.
My dad's main love language was without a doubt gifts. My dad struggled to be emotionally vulnerable, but he was always so good at making sure his family physically had everything they/we needed to be taken care of. Even though he would spend his Christmas Eve running around doing last minute shopping, he always made sure we all got that one big gift. And any little accessory that we could ever need or use to go with it. He was so thoughtful in that way. More than.
I do realize now how much I let guilt, or really fear, get in the way of truly appreciating the things he spent so much time and money on for me.
The list of things he bought me that I let sit for months, years, or still to this day goes on and on...an iPad that he bought me for my college graduation, a new cell phone that I held off activating as long as I could, a video camera, a blender for smoothies...
One year for Christmas of 2013 he bought me a 32 inch television for my bedroom. I specifically asked for one after he had asked me what I wanted for Christmas. But still, I let it sit in a box in my closet for over a year. I didn't feel safe enough to take it out and set it up until the very night in winter 2015 that he and my mom forgave each other. My parents' new sense of freedom had also given me freedom. I put on Silver Linings Playbook and sent my dad a photo.
And of course, the most special gift I got from him that I always wanted - a nice camera. He bought it for me for our last Christmas together - 2015.
It had been a few months after his cancer diagnosis, so it was a very sad Christmas. I would say it was bittersweet, but it was more bitter than sweet. I made sure to spend the night on Christmas Eve, knowing it would be the last. It wouldn't be til months later that I would find out that he didn't even remember me staying the night and waking up with him, my siblings and stepmom.
I opened this beautiful camera Christmas morning and all of the accessories. It filled my heart with deep sorrow knowing this was the last thing he would probably ever get me. Not because I only loved him when he bought me things. But because I knew he loved buying me things.
Time passed after Christmas. My dad would periodically ask me how I liked my camera, if I was learning how to use it...or if I was using it at all... He wanted for me to enjoy it. I just couldn't let myself.
Once he passed away I couldn't even look at it. And it broke my heart that he left this earth before I could ever tell him how much I loved using it. Truthfully, I am still learning to.
In the end, I guess it is ironic that my dad's main love language was gifts. He is gone. But he left behind for me all these things he wanted so deeply for me to enjoy. And as time passes, I realize it more and more.
It wasn't until last week that I felt vulnerable enough to take my camera out of its bag and start reading the instruction manual. I posted a photo of this on Facebook and how the words "you only love your dad when he buys you things" really affected me. Someone commented and said, "don't let evil win".
After reading these words, I decided from that point on that I would not let fear or guilt rule my mindset when it comes to enjoying the gifts my dad bought me. These gifts are all I physically have left of him.
It has taken me almost 20 years to break this mindset, but I am being deliberate in breaking it. It is a process, and I am still learning.
My dad loved me. And I loved him. And he provided for me in the best way he knew how because he loved me. Because he delighted in me. It is okay to allow my heart to appreciate and enjoy every little thing he ever bought me.
And so I will.