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My First Fatherless Father’s Day

We all knew it was going to happen sooner or later.  We just hoped and prayed for the “later” option.  As a glass half full person, I hadn’t allowed myself to consider what things would be like once it did. I just knew that Dad would simply keep bouncing back from his many health hurdles and we’d keep taking care of him and celebrating holidays like we always did.  Another Thanksgiving…check.  One more Christmas…check. Happy New Year and birthday calls to both me and my sister in January…done.

On the evening of January 26, however, the phone calls started. First from my brother speeding through the hour-long journey to Mom and Dad’s house. “Mom said to call you…it doesn’t look good,” he said. I called my sister in Austin. Then several minutes later, “the” call from Mom, before my brother could even get there. A call from my sister. Calls made by my husband to his family, to my boss and close friends.  So many calls.

Five hundred miles away from me, and quite peacefully, Dad had slipped away from us.

Once we stumbled our way through a surreal fog of stunned grief, little bits of “regular” and new normal made their way in. But, during the five months since then, I have been periodically (read “often”) zapped by that same heavy grief.  I can’t always identify any real trigger…it just comes and sits on me.  A glance at a photo or some subtle reminder of him and my heart will groan and I again feel that familiar twinge of pain. Tears still well up and and my stomach will hurt. Sometimes I let myself feel it for a while, but other times I quickly choose a  path of positive “Dad” thoughts to deal with the assaults.

But on Father’s Day, it’s different. We all miss him profoundly and it’s hard. Eventually my heart will be comfortable with the nature of my now diminished relationship with Dad, but not yet. I do find comfort in sweet memories and how he injected his unique joy and love into our lives. And I grin to myself as I think how he would definitely not approve of the fuss and sadness.

So, not really knowing how to deal with this kind of Father’s Day, I’ve decided that I will use this day much like we always have – to celebrate, honor and remember him.

  • We will eat one of Dad’s favorite meals – and since I don’t know how to cook soft shelled crab, it will be steak and baked potatoes. And I’ll (try to) make my Mom’s incredible cheesecake.
  • We’ll watch a Clint Eastwood movie or a Walker, Texas Ranger marathon (ok, maybe not a marathon…can I change that to a snippet?)
  • I will refill my hummingbird feeders – we’ve had so many this year and Dad would not let have them starve – he fed everything.
  • I’ll call my mom.
  • I will not forget my own husband who has been quietly supportive and kind all this time.  He’s a dad, too, and will get his share of the day’s spotlight.
  • I will try to live my life in a way that would make Dad proud.
  • …and I will plant tomatoes.

While I imagined this would be hard, I’ve reached the point of being surprised by how hard it still is for me. I know, however, that there is no sorrow so deep that our love for him is not deeper still.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.