Father’s Day musings when their father is gone

Happy Father's Day in heaven once again, Matthew. I have to imagine where you are that they do celebrate the good fathers there. I can't picture what it could be like, but I know it's probably magnificent. But that's what is making me kinda sad. Because you never were one to prefer magnificent over the familiar and ordinary. You'd probably have preferred this Sunday to be on our couch with us instead, a lazy day spent with your loud kids opening homemade construction paper Father's Day cards with hearts on the front. And then with me, tonight in bed. 

I have to admit. Father's Day has become my least favorite "holiday." This will be my kids' fifth Father's Day without their dad. It has become somewhat of a numb day, where we just live and observe and try to just get through it. Because no amount of time seems to take away the sting of not having him here with us anymore. My kids were thumbing through the Father's Day cards at the grocery because they are next to the checkout lines. I told them how daddy would have loved to read that funny one, right there. We saw a little girl recently at the donut shop getting treats with her daddy, presumably on a birthday or something special since her shirt read, "Daddy Daughter Bond" —we saw it and smiled— maybe through a tiny bit of envy though. I joked with the kids when we got in the car, "rub it in why don't ya, little girl!"

When I was little, I remember going with my dad to take the aluminum cans and stacked newspapers to the recycling center downtown. And the minuscule amount of dollars and change we got for it all, my dad would let me buy some candy or a treat. Usually it was right before we went on vacation to a lake cottage in Michigan, where my dad would sometimes take one of us girls fishing. My poor dad didn't have any boys, and while I was somewhat of a Tomboy back then, I wasn't keen on actually fishing —because even in my youth, I guess quiet and patience were not my strong suits. But being with my dad, the time I had with him, being present with only me —is a memory I cherish. I know it's a memory that he too, had with his own dad before he died.

My son doesn't fish. He doesn't golf either. Things that typically fathers might do with their sons, he never had. Losing his dad at age 10 only gave us a little bit of time. He had a lot of ball tossing and wrestling on the floor and days at the swimming pool with him—all ordinary things but magnificent when you think about them. It just wasn't enough for a whole lifetime. My son told me he has started to forget the sound of his dad's voice. That is a tough one for me because I can't get that back. I only have a small handful of videos where my husband is speaking or laughing. My son is pushing 6'2 now and would have towered over his dad. His daddy would have loved to see his once tiny son becoming this massive man boy who is brilliant at soccer and skimboards with ease on the beach. I watched children play in the sand with their daddies on vacation in Florida last week, remembering how their daddy was great at playing toss and making drippy sandcastles with them on this beach for so many years. 

There was one guy sitting in the sand next to his little boy who was digging a hole near the water. But instead of playing with and helping his son, he was looking at and scrolling his phone. It kind of took my breath away. Primarily because it reminded me how many times I have probably been nose deep in my phone, checking emails or looking at stupid memes while my children are asking me questions or telling me a story. I am sometimes "too busy" to be really present with them and that embarrasses me to admit. But seeing that brought a sharp pang to my heart. Because I think there are a lot of people who don't know the gifts they have right in front of their faces. And soon it will be gone. Faster than they can refresh their stupid Twitter feed. They don't know the gift that is TIME and PRESENCE with people we love. We all still have the opportunity to celebrate it because we're alive. But so many of us squander it doing meaningless stuff. I do too, I know.

My youngest still says "it's not fair we don't have our dad anymore." There isn't any answer to that, and I don't pretend to have one. "I know," I told her. He watches over us though, I think. And that's the only thing I hold to be true, especially when we have these tough days without him. Yes, we have gotten used to not having him physically here, but damn it still hurts.

To all the daddies who are still lucky enough to be here, whether you do the ordinary or magnificent today— congrats on Fatherhood and celebrate the gift of your children and your presence in their lives! 


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