This day has always been extra special for you and me. I loved hearing the stories Mom told, about looking for a “First Father’s Day” card for you, when she felt the first pangs of labor. Many hours later, on Sunday, June 15, 1969, she apologized to you for not having a card, but handed you a “me” instead. I had the distinct privilege of being the child that first made you a father.
My birthday didn’t often fall on Father’s Day, once every 6 years or so. However, we always made it a big deal when it did. Or even when it fell close, like it did this year. Our family tradition was that my sister and I could choose a place to go out for dinner on our individual birthdays. J usually chose Wendy’s (I still smile remembering this) and when it came to me, I chose a picnic, at the park, for you and I, with a basket of Mom’s fried chicken. One of the blessings of having a summer birthday in a cold weather state is being able to have an outdoor birthday.
As I got older, and we got more distant from one another, we celebrated together less and less. Still, I always thought of my birthday as “our time” and I enjoyed re-telling that birth day story to friends. When I moved cross country to fully begin my life of independence, I still felt that tiny thread that tied me to you during those special days in June. Our time.
Father’s Day of June, 2010 was especially significant. You had been diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme and were going through intensive chemotherapy in order to, hopefully, shrink the monster that was growing in your brain. I can remember standing in front of the Father’s Day cards, weeping, because I knew I might possibly be choosing the very last Father’s Day card I might ever send to you, and none of them, absolutely none, were going to work. I finally chose a simple card and decided to write a letter. Writing that letter was one of the most impossible tasks of my life.
Our relationship has not always been an easy one. Maybe it’s because we were alike in so many ways. Stubborn, opinionated, loyal and always right. (I also smile as I remember this. Age has taught me that I am not always right, however I still carry with me the struggle to always be right. Thanks for that 😉 …) We have also always been different in so many ways, in the ways that caused serious arguments and rifts. Things that were hard to overcome, as a headstrong teenager and young adult. Things that were much easier to run away from and bury my feelings about … which was how I chose to handle them.
I regret that I ran for so long, and so far, that when it came time to deal with your cancer, I was emotionally too far away to be the daughter I wish I could have been for you. I wrote it, in that letter, but I was too crippled by my fear and insecurity to speak it. That is a regret I will live with forever.
On August 9, 2010 you left this world, that lightening fast monster growing in your brain was too ferocious an enemy to defeat. Words between us were left unsaid, your voice silenced forever. I remember thinking that I had no idea how to exist in a world where you were not. For good or for bad, through joy and strife, you were my daddy and the knowledge that you would never hold my hand, hug … or argue with me again was impossible to comprehend.
It is Father’s Day, 2013. I wear my emotions a little more on my sleeve these days. I have been able to unravel some of the anger from the mourning, some of the regret from the gratefulness. I still cry, I still regret, I still get angry at the circumstances beyond my control, but I can also remember more clearly the things that were truly good.
Thank you for making me strong. Thank you for teaching me that hard work is necessary in life, and that things might not always go as you want them to, but that doesn’t mean you get to sit down and quit. Thank you for making me work for it, for every word of praise and every ounce of pride. I don’t have an overly inflated sense of self, you made sure that I can tell the difference between real praise and smoke being blown pleasantly up my ass. At the time, I didn’t appreciate that you were teaching me to seek truth, but I see it now. You never suffered a fool and that trait was passed down, for good or ill. It was grating in my 20’s, annoying in my 30’s, but now, in my 40’s, it is positively freeing.
I might not have turned out exactly as you had hoped, but I like to think that you did good, in spite of that. I mean, would you really want a child of yours to simply sit back and take your every word as gospel and tow the line exactly as you dictated? No! You taught me to have a brain, to use it and to seek out a life that would please ME, without being swayed by the opinions of others. Even if the “others” included you.
I hope that today you are enjoying a day of fishing. I hope that the skies in heaven are clear and the breeze is just enough to cool as you sit in the boat, but not enough to scare off the fish. I hope that you have a cooler filled with beer, chilled to perfection, and a basket filled with Mom’s fried chicken. I hope that the shade of the child me is waiting for you on the beach, ready to walk hand in hand to celebrate “our time”.
The adult me, misses you tremendously.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.