I was seven and thought he was everything. He was my hero and role model. Anything he did was amazing. He could lift me over my head and make all my pain go away with a simple kiss and a bad knock-knock joke. Wherever he went, I went. I was happiest when I was seven, but that April, everything changed.
My father owned two large companies headquartered in Florida, which meant he had to make a lot of trips there. I was never happy when he left and would wait for hours at the door for him to return. One day my father left for one of his business trips, but I felt something was going to happen. I cried for hours, pleading with him to stay, but nothing worked. He left the house with a kiss on my forehead and promised to call me when he got there. My father was driving, which he never did.
When I returned from school that day, I sat by the phone awaiting his call. It never came. My mother reassured me he was fine, and since it was a long drive, I might not get my call until the next day. Reluctantly, I went to bed. For two days I spent every minute thinking about my dad and when I would hear his voice.
Then it was Tuesday. I had ballet class, came home and did my homework. I waited by that phone for three hours that night. I waited until I heard the doorbell. Maybe it’s him, maybe he came home early, I thought. It wasn’t my father. It was two policemen. Their eyes filled with sympathy when they saw me answer the door.
“Is your mother home?” one asked. I nodded as my mom’s hand gently fell on my shoulder. I could tell she was scared.
“Is there a place she can be while we talk?” the other asked, referring to me. But I already knew what had happened. I could sense it the minute they walked in the door. I was sent to our neighbors and waited there.
It was dark before the policemen came back to get me. They sat me next to my mother in the family room. She had been crying and I could tell she was trying hard to stay strong for me. The men asked if she was okay and she nodded.
“Katie, honey,” my mom said as tears started to stream from her eyes. “Daddy’s gone.”
What I had already sensed was announced and even though I had known, it hit me like it really was news to me.
“No!” I shouted as tears came to my eyes. I ran to the oak tree, the tree where my father had swung me for hours just two nights before. I needed to be alone.
The funeral came and went. My father had always taught me to be strong and look for the good in everything, but I could see no good in this. I lived in denial that he was gone. For months, I would secretly unlock the front door at night and wait up thinking that he would walk through and everything would be normal again.
After seven years of living without my father, I won’t say that everything is back to the way it used to be - it never will be - but I do think that I’m a much stronger person. People say that I’m just like him; I don’t let anything get me down and I can make any situation seem good. I miss my father and always will. But I truly believe that he is always with me. My father is my guardian angel.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.