I lost my father when I was ten— his only child, his only daughter. It is only in recent times that I have pondered the importance of having a father. Maybe it has to do with the loss, about a year and a half ago, of my beloved husband. I now have the solitude and the time to focus on my growing years. I find myself reading about this relationship and, I find myself crying over it more often than not. Why, after all these years, am I missing him? I ask myself what I am missing, and the answer comes quickly— a hug, a kiss goodnight, an empathetic ear, and his voice saying my name. It takes so little to conjure up the man I barely knew. It must be engraved on my heart and soul that he was necessary to me, no matter how long or short the time we were given together.

He never saw the tears on my face I remember a time, long ago, I had been invited to spend a weekend at the home of two cousins, sisters who had what I then thought was everything teenaged girls could want. Their parents had brought an extra bed into their room. Each evening, their father would come in to kiss them goodnight and make them smile with some funny stories. While he tucked them in, I remember wishing he would come to me too. And he did. And he never saw the tears on my face. How lucky they were! It hurts even now. He was their father, not mine.

I remember a movie starring Barbra Streisand, Yentl, in which she takes her sorrows into the woods and kneels to sing a plea to her "papa," a broken-hearted plea for his help and understanding in her troubled times. How many times, I think now, have I felt this need and wished my father had been there to hear and hold and care. It hurts even now.

I was raised by a Jewish mother and grandparents. I wished they had spoken of my father more. There were only a handful of photos of him, some with a tiny child wearing a knotted hanky on her head. I wished it had shown him holding me. I wished my mother had saved some of his things, even if it had been something small and inconsequential. I would have treasured it forever. So many wishes and so little I could do about it. In a misguided effort to keep me from being sad, his memory was kept with the adults, and I was left to hoard my few until, with time, I became unsure of their being real or imagined. One time, as a young adult, I wrote a letter pleading with his sister to send me whatever she had, whatever anecdotes she could share, and I received no reply.

I remember when he had been hospitalized for the last time. I was told that children my age were not allowed to visit on the wards. I was taken to a spot below the window to his room and told to wave to "Tateh." I think I saw him there. I think of all the things we might have said to each other. I might have touched his hand, might have rested my head on his shoulder, might have heard him say something to me that I could have remembered to this day.

I think of all the things we might have said to each otherSo what does it mean to a girl to have no father to call her own? My own children have just lost theirs, but at least they knew him until they themselves were adults. I have watched my husband hug them, tuck them in at night, listen to their stories, tell them what it was like to grow up in a Jewish family when he was little, how he went to shul . I would stand to one side and watch my daughter with him. Lucky girl, she.

As a grown woman myself, I still think of my father, still miss hugs I never enjoyed, still wonder how it would have been sitting on his lap sharing my triumphs and woes. It is a hunger which can never be satisfied. It's a thirst for the reality of him. I am a part of him.

In these times of redefinition of "family," perhaps we have become accustomed to being raised by one or the other parent. But I strongly maintain that there is something deep-seated in the need for both mother and father to shape the nurturing of a child. When I think of that figure, however briefly he was in my life, I think of stability and strength. I was Morris' daughter. He was my Tate. I am a Jewish woman; I have the heart of a Jewish woman. I wish I had known him better. I wish I had known how to mourn him this way. But I have faith that his spirit lives within me and, as all loving fathers do, he understands.