Getting Through Father’s Day, When Your Father is Gone

This is my fourth Father’s Day without my dad, who passed away in April of 2012, and I keep asking myself when this day is going to get easier. Part of me thinks that the answer is “It’s not.” Because Father’s Day, when your father is gone, is a not-so-gentle reminder of what you’re missing out on.

And damn, am I ever missing out on a lot. Is HE ever missing out on a lot.

On days like this, when his absence weighs more heavily on my mind, I waver back and forth between being sad, angry, resentful, and nostalgic. I wish that the latter took precedence over the rest, but maybe one day it will. Maybe that’s how people get through it every year.  I’m going to at least give it a try.

Dad2

Look at that handsome fella’!

I was lucky enough to have had my dad in my life for nearly 29 years. And I can honestly say that I can count on one hand (and not even use all five digits) the number of negative memories I have with him. The rest? Amazing. Hilarious. Fun. Joyful. Every moment full of the most pure kind of love, both his for my mom and I and ours for him.

I’m an only child and was my dad’s pride and joy. I was smart, well-mannered, and wise beyond my years. I can credit my parents for a lot of that, because they raised me in a home where I always felt safe and supported. And as I grew older and saw how some of my friends’ families interacted, I realized how charmed my life actually was.

My earliest memory of my dad is probably the two of us rough housing in the living room, which involved him sitting on the floor and me running from one end of the room to the other, into his arms. He would fall onto his back, lift me into the air, and then tickled me until I was gasping for breath. I loved every second. It was our Sunday night routine, after I’d had my bath and had gotten into my pajamas.

Dad1

A mid-eighties family shot.  Before wood paneling was considered hipster.

He loved music, a true hippie and child of the 50s and 60s. By the time I came around, his long hair was gone and his partying days were over, but he never lost his passion for music. He had a full stereo setup and would fire up his turntable and pull out the Hall and Oates Bigbamboom album so that we could dance around to “Out of Touch”, which quickly became our song. He introduced me to Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Cream, Elton John… the list goes on. Music that defies time.

A man child in every way that counted, he would buy boxes of fireworks each 4th of July and put on his own show. Sometimes I think he got more enjoyment out of having my mom shake her head and lecture him about being careful. Who was she kidding? If there were no immediate risk of losing a hand, he wasn’t having fun.

He was a better Santa than the one from Miracle on 34th Street, coming up with insane and creative ways to keep an intelligent kid like me from losing her belief in the jolly old fellow. One year, when I was 8 years old, he went as far as writing a note from Santa to say that my dad had fallen asleep in front of the fireplace while he waited for Santa’s arrival, but that Santa had stepped on him when he came down the chimney. Santa, being the caring guy that he was, fixed my dad’s foot up and sent him back to bed. After I read the note, I rushed into my parents’ bedroom (they were still asleep in those wee morning hours) and pulled back the covers, only to see a bandage on my dad’s foot from his run-in with Santa. That bought him a few more years of magic, no doubt about it.

The best dad a girl could ask for? That’s an understatement.

He was also the best grandfather that my girls could have asked for, passing on so many of our traditions to them and creating a bunch of their own. When he found out that our first child was a girl, oh man, you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face if you tried. He looked at her as another version of me, before she was even born. Turns out that he got his wish, because Delanie is just like me in almost every way.

Our biggest regret is that he never got to meet his grandson. He loved the girls, but I know that he would have had a blast with Calvin. I think that he left his imprint on him, though. The cleft chin, the love of baseball, finding joy in even the smallest thing. That’s when I look at my son and remind myself that my dad is still here with us.

Dad4

Less than two years before he passed, in Jamaica celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary.  Radiating joy, like he always did.  And finding humor in all things dirty, like he always did.

So on this day to celebrate fathers, if yours is still around and you like him at least a little bit, give him a hug and tell him how much you love him. For those of us who can’t, but desperately wish we could.

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