From the editor's desk: Dads and daughters

By Sarah Nigbor
Posted 5/22/24

I never know when it’s going to come over me, and most of the time, it’s quite sudden. A wave of sadness that may or may not make itself known by salty drops sneaking from my eyes. I …

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From the editor's desk: Dads and daughters


I never know when it’s going to come over me, and most of the time, it’s quite sudden. A wave of sadness that may or may not make itself known by salty drops sneaking from my eyes. I prefer that it stay hidden, because it happens at the most inopportune times. I can usually will it away, but every so often, the sadness overstays its welcome.

What causes this wave of emotion and those unwanted tears, threatening to ruin my eyeliner and puff up my eyes? It’s when I watch fathers with their daughters. More often than not a beautiful sight, but one that makes my heart ache. It happened again at my daughter’s softball tournament this weekend, out of the blue with no warning. My stoic Finnish ancestors would have been proud as my face stayed still as stone, but my heart felt like it would burst. Of course it didn’t.

A girl was devastated when she struck out at the plate. As she sat forlornly in the dugout with her head hanging low, her dad came over and talked to her and she soon brightened up. I don’t know what he said to her, but it worked and she went on to have a great game (and more importantly, she had fun).

Another dad beamed with pride as his daughter hit a bomber triple and scampered around the diamond. She looked back to make sure he was watching behind the fence. The pride and excitement exchanged between the two was as palpable as the hot spring sun.

It’s scenes like this that make me feel so happy for the girls, yet so sad for all I missed out on. I know I’m 43 years old and by most accounts, a grown woman. Yet I sometimes still feel like the small girl looking out on the audience at a school event and knowing I don’t have a dad there to watch, that I would never have a dad there to watch, because he’s somewhere in the ground in northern Minnesota and has been for a long time. And it wasn’t the same to think of him floating above with angels watching a school concert.

My dad died when I was two of a heart attack. I never got to know him. I’m told I look like him, but I don’t know that for myself. I know he had red hair and glasses, that he liked drinking coffee (what a shock!), fishing and hunting, that he worked as a contractor and grew up on a small farm in Makinen, Minn. I know he was the oldest of three. He often wore western shirts and had a stutter growing up. And that paragraph is about the extent of what I know. I have a few old school pictures of his, a western vest, a death certificate and an obituary. That is all.

I would love to know what his favorite food was, or if he liked to read. Did he like school? What did he want to be when he grew up? What was the scariest thing that ever happened to him? What was his favorite holiday? What did his voice sound like? Was he happy when I was born? Was he proud of me? What would he think of my kids?

I was so fortunate to have my maternal grandpa and grandma help raise me. My grandpa truly was like my dad and he taught me so many things. I also know he was proud of me and loved me immensely. But it still didn’t erase the hole left behind by not knowing my dad. It didn’t erase the pain of seeing my dad’s name etched in cold stone when I found his grave. Forty-one years is a long time; does anyone even remember him anymore?

When these feelings rear up, I allow myself to sit with them a minute, because to push them away would be ignoring their validity. I’ve also learned the hard way that burying things doesn’t make them go away. I used to be the queen of bottling things up and tamping them down until they blew. I’ve learned to let those feelings have their time, but to not allow them to overtake me. I don’t think the sadness will ever go away, but I believe the best way to honor those who have gone is to live the life I was meant to live fully and wholly.

From the editor's desk, Sarah Nigbor, dads, daughters, column