The month of June is in full swing. School’s out for the summer and for our family, a high school graduation. We’ve celebrated a birthday or two and are now heading toward the third Sunday in June, a day to celebrate fathers and father figures, those men that have loved and continue to love us, and who have made such a contribution to shaping our lives. This is for my dad.
I love picking out cards for special occasions, and Father’s Day is no exception. I’ve always been able to find just the right one that says how I’m feeling at that particular time. Sometimes my Father’s Day cards are all mushy and sentimental, and sometimes they are hysterically funny. While I was recently at the grocery store, I found myself perusing the cards when the reality hit that I would be buying one less card this year for Father’s Day. This past January 18th, my dad passed away after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer last fall. It still feels strange every time I acknowledge that he is gone – like if I don’t say anything, maybe it won’t be true. At my dad’s request, there was no funeral service, just a private celebration of life with family and his closest friends. I didn’t post to Facebook because at the time I was so overwhelmed with grief, I didn’t think I could handle all the kind words and condolences. So now, we are having that year of firsts. He would have turned 75 this past April, still a young man by today’s standards. Sunday it is Father’s Day, my first without him and although time does heal and as a family we are doing better, I find the grief I still carry in my heart bubbling up all over again. With that said, I don’t want this to be a post about loss, rather I want you all to know who my dad was, and why he will still be celebrated on this special day of dads.
My dad was the first man I loved. I was trying to think of some of my earliest memories with him and the first that came to mind was raking leaves with him in the fall. At that time we lived in the city, and leaves were regularly burned on the curb. I had my little rake and used to love helping him. (Although I’m sure it took him twice as long with my “help”.) Sometimes we would make piles and I would hide in one and he would pretend not to find me, or I would run through them.
During the warm months, he would always take my hand as we walked to the nearby park after dinner, and sometimes we stopped to pick up milk. He spent a lot of time pushing me on the swing and I always hated when it was time to leave. My dad also taught me how to ride a bike. I can still picture him running along beside me up and down the block until finally, I was flying down the sidewalk on my own, hearing him cheer me on. I was a Girl Scout back in the day, and every year there was a father daughter dinner, and every year he attended with me. I’m sure he was thrilled when I decided that Girl Scouts was no longer “my thing”. My dad was a light sleeper and on those occasions when I woke up from a bad dream, or if I wasn’t feeling well, he always came into my room and rubbed my back, reassuring me that everything was ok. My dad traveled a lot for business, often overseas and he always brought me back a little souvenir spoon from the state or country he traveled to. I still have the collection displayed on my wall today. Of course my dad taught me how to drive. His car, a Honda Accord, was a manual so he would take me to practice in an empty business lot on the weekends, and I still remember the terror I felt when he told me to drive it home, making jokes whenever I stalled. My dad walked me down the aisle when I got married, telling me right before the music started that he loved me.
As a little side note to my wedding day, because it was December, my dad thought it was a good idea to put on self tanning cream the morning of the wedding, so he didn’t look so white in pictures. This was so unlike him… Anyway, he didn’t realize how much he was putting on, and long story short- his face was a lovely shade of orange. He looked like a ripe summer peach! I’ll never forget standing at the back of the church, staring at him as he came to walk me down the aisle, and thinking, “What the Hell?” We laughed about that for many years.
In my adult years, my dad was always a voice of reason when my emotions got the better of me, and he was always so damn practical. Always. 🙂 He had a wicked sense of humor and could make me laugh so easily, even if I was having a bad day. I was never allowed to take myself too seriously.
As wonderful as my father was to both my brother and me, my dad shined when he became “Papa”.
He was a wonderful grandfather to all his grandchildren. I remember when my boys were young, my dad would play Santa Claus every year until one Christmas, my oldest son wanted to know why Santa was wearing Papa’s shoes.
He felt such pride when that same son joined the Army, always supporting him and talking about him to all his friends. When the boys were teenagers, my dad would stop by every Sunday morning with a box of donuts, fresh from the bakery, just for them. Speaking of friends, my dad had lots of them. He made friends wherever he went and I still remember last fall, we went to the store together, and the employees were all calling him by name, and stopping to chat. Those same acquaintances have been so saddened by his death, sharing stories about my dad with my mom.
It’s funny, as we all get older there seems to be this role reversal that happens with our parents where once they took care of us, we now take care of them. For the last few months of my dad’s life, I was taking his hand on walks, helping him on the stairs, and rubbing his back for comfort, reassuring him that everything was going to be ok. I guess that’s part of the circle of life. I miss my dad every single day, and yet I feel him every time I see a dad at the park with his kids, or teaching his child to ride a bike, or even when one of our girls sits on her dad’s lap. Although we won’t be making new memories, I will always treasure the old ones. I carry his love in my heart and there is a comfort in that.
Happy Father’s Day Daddy.
I hope you all have a wonderful Father’s Day this weekend, and on a personal note, I’d like to wish a Happy Father’s Day to my wonderful husband, and my little brother.