Father’s Day Minus My Father

Father’s Day was never a big deal for my Dad.  It was not his thing.  He didn’t expect gifts or meals or cards, even.  I seem to remember a good Father’s Day for him was one where all of his four kids called him.  That made him happy.

Last Father’s Day was spent raising funds for Donna’s Good Things at the dance recital for the studio where we support scholarships.  My Dad helped me out with a few of those over the years.  He liked to sit behind the table and talk about his granddaughter who had died from a brain tumor and that he missed so terribly.  He would tell every stranger he met that her name was Donna and that it wasn’t right for him to be alive and her to be dead.

This first Father’s Day without my Dad is one I’ve been trying to not think about.  It’s easy to keep busy and distracted when you are mothering two young ones.  But today as I sat down to do a little photo project as a gift for my husband tomorrow, I keep coming back to photos of my own Dad.  I miss him.

As I type those words, “I miss him,” I take a deep breath and stare out the window.  I live in a neighborhood where a lot of Orthodox Jews live.  It is Saturday morning, so Jewish families are coming and going, walking past my window.  Every family has a father, all of whom seem actively engaged with their kiddos as they stroll past.  This serves both to make me miss my father more, but to also feel grateful for the Dad I had.

Our relationship wasn’t perfect, my childhood wasn’t perfect, and my Dad certainly wasn’t perfect, but he was there.  Always.  There is something to be said for being there, showing up, staying close.

Me and my Dad, c. 1979.
Me and my Dad, c. 1979.

I got to spend 45 years with my Dad, which is a hell of a lot more time than so many other folks get with their fathers.  I am grateful for that.  So very grateful.

One of the things I miss most about my dear Da developed in recent years.  It was our mutual grief that provided an extra layer of texture to our relationship.  We shared a sadness that was just understood, the common denominator between us.  We talked about our grief unselfconsciously.  I think for both of us, it was a major part of our day-to-day lives without defining our day-to-day.  We both had learned how to make room for the sadness without it crushing us.  That connection we had, now that it is missing, makes my own grief feel a bit more crushing these days.

And again, I pause my typing to look out the window.  And breathe.

Tomorrow is Father’s Day.  I will do what I can to make my husband feel extra appreciated and valued.  He is a rock star in the world of fathers.  My own Dad would often remark, never in front of my husband, but aside to me, what a good father my husband was.  I think he saw the level of involvement and engagement that my husband has with his children, my Dad’s grandchildren, and was amazed.  “You got yourself a real good one there,” he would tell me often.  Truth.

But in the midst of my two boys and my husband, somewhere in between breakfast in bed and dinner out at a favorite Mediterranean restaurant, in between a walk to the park or planning for next week’s road trip, I will be thinking of my Dad.  He is never far from me, never leaves my thoughts for too long.  I will be sad and pine to hold the hand of the man that brought me into this world.

Instead, I will take another deep breath, hold the hands of my boys and my husband and remember to be grateful for the Dad I had.

He was a good one and I miss him.

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