Father’s Day has always been something of an awkward, complicated holiday for me…less so beginning 15 years ago when I started spearheading the celebrations here in my own home to honor this wonderful man with whom I am blessed to be raising these two girls. Even then, there was still that day when I stood in the card section trying to find the appropriate card for my dad. The Hallmark version of fatherhood really didn’t apply in our particular case and my sister and I often joked about the challenge of finding that perfect card to send. “You were always there for me”…well, not really. “You set the example…” ummm, well, maybe not. Ultimately, there would be a card that simply said “I love you, Daddy” and I would know that I had a winner.
Yesterday was the first Father’s Day since my dad’s death on the first Sunday of Advent this past year. As I wrote then, Daddy’s death brought a mixture of sadness and relief for all of us who had watched him struggle for so long. Knowing that he is finally at peace has brought me a great deal of comfort in the months that have passed since then. Yet, after I called my precious step-dad yesterday to wish him a Happy Father’s Day, I found myself surprised by tears that came as I realized that I had no more phone calls to make. I experienced a similar response in the card section last week as I looked for cards for the other fathers in our life. This year, ironically, there seemed to be so many cards that would have been appropriate for Daddy.
People often, particularly in those first few months, asked me how I am…how am I doing, you know, with my father’s death? It is so hard to answer that question in a way that is honest and honors the spirit in which the question is asked. The simple truth; I am doing fine. My grief for the loss of my dad began when I was 14 or 15 years old and, to be honest, the hardest work was done in my 20s as I worked to separate myself from the feelilngs of responsibility that I had for him and as I fought with all my might to prevent my trust issues from destroying my marriage. It is by the grace of God’s healing and the steady, patient, deep love of my husband that I walk this path today.
As I look back over the 6 months since his death, I realize that I don’t really miss him on a day to day basis. I had built such firm, protective boundaries between our lives that he, sadly, was not part our everyday experiences, so it would be false for me to say that I miss his daily presence. Yet, as we reach new milestones in the lives of our girls, I often think of things that I would like to share with him and I am sad that he is no longer a phone call away. With a new driver in our house, I look back fondly on the process of him teaching me to drive and I would love to talk with him and laugh with him and hear him tease me about not knowing my left from my right, as I insistently remind him that I have now been driving for 30 years, thank you very much. I cherish those “normal” moments when I think of those memories and I am grateful for the tears that remind me of the love that we shared for one another. I have learned that there is no right or wrong way to travel this path of grief and have tried to be gentle with myself when my journey looks different than someone else’s or different than I expected it to be. As I learned from the 12 step program years ago, I must travel this path One Day at a Time and keep my eyes firmly focused on my Heavenly Father.
I don’t know if we are still aware of what is happening here once we are with the Lord, but if you can hear me Daddy…Happy Father’s Day. I love you and I can’t wait to see you again one day!