Shortly before father's day in 1977, I sat on my first grade teacher's lap sobbing while she comforted me, saying she was sorry and that she wasn't thinking. Minutes earlier, she had announced to the class that we were going to make Father's Day cards. I still remember the feeling of the lump that lodged in my throat and I struggled with not knowing what to do. I was frozen. For a moment I sat staring blankly at the construction paper that had just been placed on my desk. And in that moment, the magic spell of childhood resilliancy was broken. I started to cry...
My father died suddenly and tragically that March. I was only six. My brother was two. I'm pretty sure I'd never made a Father's Day card before. If I did, I don't remember. By June, I had turned seven and life must have been slowly returning to... normal? No, that's not right; life wasn't going to ever be normal again, but I was at least feeling seven and was "bouncing back" the way people say kids do ~ in terms of getting on with life I suppose...
But in that moment though... in that moment, it was March 12th all over again. My daddy was gone. Oh how I missed him. I was awash with grief. I don't remember much, not vividly anyway between March 12th and the day my teacher innocently planned a Father's Day craft. But those two days are at the raw core in the memories of my loss. I loved my teacher and on that day she did everything she could to soothe my broken heart. Later that day, a boy classmate teased me for crying like a baby. At seven, I hated him for being so cruel; as an adult I know he was just too young to understand. I also know my teacher must have felt awful.
My dad has been gone 33 years. He was 33 when he died. I've just turned 40. I'm now 7 years older than he ever was. I can't wrap my brain around that.
I still miss him terribly. At the very least, I am nostalgic for the first 6.75 years of my life that he was here for and I miss the potential of him in my life since he left. There are days it feels as though he were a dream... I remember telling myself I'd never forget the exact sound of his voice and his laugh, but time has only allowed me to keep a few special memories; though my own longing has interfered enough times to leave me wondering how much of those memories are vivid reality and what details have been imagined to make the picture clearer. It hurts to know I won't ever know.
Since 1977 Father's Day has kind of faded into the background. Until recent years, it was just a holiday that no longer applied to me.
In 2006, Chris and I had Grace and Father's Day has since found new special place in my heart. I can live vicariously through my daughter's innocent joy and help her celebrate. Chris is out of town working right now, so he didn't have the chance to be showered with kisses and giggles this morning, or have a surprise breakfast made with too much help from an over-eager almost four year old. Today he had to settle for a phone call and it made me sad; for her, for him and for me.
Chris is a wonderful father and I want him to have endless Father's Days with his daughter; Father's Days spent in person and together; Father's Days complete with construction paper cards made with innocence, love and anticipation of daddy's approval and without tears or feelings of unfair, smothering loss. I want all of that; for her, for him and for me too.
Happy Father's Day Chris and to you too dad. I love you both.
Chris and Grace 2009
Me and my dad 1970