This Sunday will be the second Father’s Day since my dad died. Thus begging the tricky question of what to do on Father’s Day when you no longer have a father.
For some, I imagine that Father’s Day without a father is a reminder of the giant gaping hole in your life. The display of Hallmark cards, the inundation of emails entitled “Give Dad What He Really Wants!” and the heartrending TV ads of dads as our first loves and our heroes all feel like salt on wounds that have not healed, but have just been bandaged over.
For some, it is a day to just get through in one piece. For others, it is a day awash in jealousy as social media is flooded with grainy photographs and sentimental memories shared by friends. For others still, it is a day of quiet reflection punctuated by a surge of memories that come without provocation.
Although we put artificial timelines on grief, there is no magic wand that erases the sense of loneliness that washes over you when the person who knows you the best is gone. Grief, after all, is just a measure of the vastness of our love. Grief never really ends because love never ends.
As much as I thought I understood the eventuality of losing my dad — as much as I believed I knew how it would feel — I utterly failed to appreciate the enormity of losing a parent. It doesn’t matter whether it was sudden or expected, whether you are old or young, or how many years you had together — you are never prepared to be fatherless. Especially on a day devoted to fathers.
I suppose I could feel sorry for myself on Father’s Day. But instead, I’m going to celebrate the shit out of it.
My father might not be here physically, but that doesn’t mean I can’t celebrate the things that made him an amazing father; an amazing man.
When I was little, he told me I could be anything I wanted to be. And he meant it.
When I was a teenager, he said “I trust you.” And he meant it.
When I went to college, he told me if I was miserable, I could come home and sell beads and live with them forever. And he meant it.
When I was struggling or lost, he told me I already had all the answers. And he meant it.
When I was sworn in to federal court as an attorney, he introduced me as the finest lawyer they would ever see. And he meant it.
When I married my husband, he told me he had never been happier that I found someone who loved me more than life itself.
And he meant it.
When I had my boys, he told me he was prouder of the mother I was than anything I had ever done. And he meant it.
Every day of my life — every single one — he told me and showed me that he loved me. And he meant it. Why wouldn’t I want to celebrate the shit out of that?
I will celebrate the father he was, to me and to the countless others he mentored and guided, by listening, by laughing, by hugging, by saying I love you a hundred times a day. By being present.
I will celebrate his love of history, which lives on in the 9-year-old with a stack of Winston Churchill books.
I will celebrate his love of words, by reading to my boys as we do every evening, curled up in bed with their heads on my shoulder. By writing my own words, even if they pale in comparison to his.
I will celebrate the woman who now plays the role of both mother and father while at the same time navigating the loss of her soulmate.
I will celebrate my husband who is perfect a father to our boys as my father was to me.
Mostly, I will celebrate the way we lived our life together, even if it was shorter than I wanted. I will raise my boys to be the kind of men who change the world not with their jobs or their money or their power, but with their heart. I will celebrate by loving hard, every minute of every day.
As my dad wrote me on the eve of my departure for college, “we have not reached the end of the line, just the termination of this route. We are all changing trains, still journeying on together, destined by blood and love to cross and recross one another’s trails.”
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. Until our trails cross again …