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By Ashlyn Kriegel 

“Daddy, can we go on the swings today?”

“Of course, sweetie. Let’s go.”

And with that, I was picked up and spun around until my feet landed in the grass.

Daddy, let’s go to the climber and pretend we can touch the sky. Where the clouds feel like cotton and the wind takes us on any journey we wish for.

“Daddy, where are you going tonight?”

“Just out with some friends, I won’t be gone too late baby girl.”

And with that, he kissed my forehead and tucked me in.

Daddy, are you leaving again tonight and why does your car smell like the newspapers we burnt in the fire pit over the summer… Except it hurts my nose?

“Daddy, can I come with you tonight?”

“No honey, you have to stay home with mama and your sister.”

And with that, I saw his headlights roll down the driveway. I watched them like fade into the street as if it was the curtains closing at the end of a show.

He did not come back that night.

Why is it that you smell like the stuff you drink at parties in July

And why is it that when I tell mama you’re sorry she begins to cry?

Why do you sometimes sleep in the basement

And why do you keep promising me you’ll stop smoking and drinking every night?

You never keep these promises, but I keep asking.

You tell me you love me, but if you love me, then why does mama like to keep me away from you at nighttime?

Why can’t we go outside and swing on the swings like before?

Like when you would walk home through the front door wearing your tie and neatly ironed shirt and pick me up and swing me through the air so I could see the dust in the sunset’s light flooding through the house?

We can go swing on the trees, we can swing the baseball bat as many times without strikes, we are swinging through emotions.

Sadness, hopelessness, fear, despair

I feel your tears on my face, I feel my heart beating as you hold me close to your chest in bed and say, “I promise, I’ll stop,” but then the space next to me goes cold and I see your headlights fall off the edge of our driveway once more.

Daddy, where are you going? Daddy, where did you go?

Daddy, who is Jesus? Where is Jesus? Isn’t He the one who I learned about in church?

I see his picture painted on the wall of the confession room, and I clutch my rosary hoping that one more “Hail Mary” will bring you home earlier tonight.

Can He even hear me? Does Jesus even know me?

To my knowledge, He sits on a cross with his ribs showing and wearing far too little clothes when I look at the wooden carving of Him in mass. I think I hear His name mentioned sometimes when Pastor John is talking.

Daddy, why am I visiting you in a place that is far away from home? Daddy, why are you smiling so much? Why are you crying when you see me? I’ll see you again next weekend.

Daddy, who is Jesus? You said that He met you one day at home and told you to come here,

This refuge next to the lake where pine trees grow tall and are perfect for swinging.

Can we swing again? We can, can’t we?

Abba, who is Jesus? And how did He save my daddy? Can He save me too? Can He make me happy and clean like my daddy too? Can He take away all the hurt in my life and restore my heart too? Can He restore my family again too?

He has saved me.

No one can tell me that I am the way I am today because of daddy issues because I submit to my Father in Heaven first who then made my Earthly father pure as snow.

No one can tell me that I am unloved when I have firsthand experienced the power of restoration.

No one can tell me that I am nothing when the Lord has given me everything.

So Abba and daddy, we are going to go swinging today, when the sun is high and the leaves cast shadows so I can go to the shade when the sweat beads on my forehead.

The ghosts of intoxicated kisses are no longer and there are indeed arms to embrace me when I have a nightmare in the darkness.

We are going to go swinging today where a new church means a new beginning and I learn in my first five minutes that Jesus knows my name and always cares for me.

My missing rosary is unnoticed and the painting of white Jesus is unseen because there is a cross guarding my soul so that I can’t ever forget the sacrifices made by my King.

We are going to go swinging where alcohol no longer has a hold on my daddy or is destroying my family piece by piece.

My missing daddy is not missing anymore and my confused soul finds contentment in the love and answers my eternal Daddy gives me.

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