I walked into the local bookstore the other day and was greeted by a very large rack of Father’s Day cards. Perfect, I thought. I began perusing cards, just like I had done most of my life. And then it hit me…. Dad is gone and this is the first Father’s Day when I have no one to give a card to; no one to buy a gift for; no one to invite over for a BBQ. You see, I lost my Dad on November 21, 2010 and this is my first Father’s Day without him. The depth of sadness that I’m feeling surprises me. I thought I had grieved. I thought I was healed, but it’s life’s daily events that keep the memory of a loved one alive. It’s little things like Father’s Day that remind me of just how much I miss him.
Last year Dad was in a rehab facility and we took Father’s Day to him. He spent most of the day crying happy tears that as a family, we would come and bring the celebration to him. For the next five months he was back and forth between the hospital and rehab. He came home on November 1, 2010 and passed away three weeks later. He was on hospice care and even though we all knew the end was coming, we are never really prepared. He died with his family present. He was not alone. He was loved and he was comfortable. His wife, my brother and me were holding him when he took his last breath. He had been so sick for so long and I knew that morning that he was no longer imprisoned by his body. I thought I was doing okay until I saw the Father’s Day cards in the bookstore. And you know, there are Father’s Day cards everywhere, including at the local car wash. And each time I see these racks and watch people selecting a card for a beloved father, I’m reminded of my Dad.
My Dad gave me my love of nature. He taught me to ski and surf (which I still hate to this day), but I love the beach because of my Dad. He taught me to hike and ride horses. He taught me to swim in the ocean and to not be afraid. Reflecting on some of the things I did during my childhood; I’m lucky to be sitting here today. He taught me that it’s okay – even expected to take risks. He used to say, “If you have your health, then you are rich.” Today I know this is true, but as a child, I didn’t really get it. As a little girl, I wondered why you couldn’t have both. He taught me the value of a good education and the responsibility that comes with that education. He was a proud WWII navy veteran and he taught me to love my country and to stand up for freedom. He taught me that we don’t always get what we want in this life, but that hard work and a winning attitude always help you succeed.
My favorite times with my dad were our family vacations. I’m not sure we ever knew exactly where we were going. We’d all pile into the station wagon and off we would go at 5:00am (when it was dark outside). We had to get a head start as we headed off to nowhere! But we always made it to somewhere. He was never one to stop at restaurants on our vacations…nope; we were having a picnic at the beach or by the side of river or stream. It used to make my mother crazy, but today, it’s what I remember so clearly and as I write this, I feel the smile on my face.
As time passed and my brother and I had families of our own, and my mother and father divorced, getting together for Father’s Day became more challenging. In fact, I’m ashamed to say that there were years when we weren’t even looking forward to the event. However, even when Dad’s health was beginning to fail, we always found a way to have a family picnic at the beach or meet in a park and share the day. We found a way.
There are “have-to days” in the calendar….days when you have to do the right thing; days when it would be easier not to, but those days you don’t have good options. As I think about this year, I am grateful that we did the right thing…that we celebrated Father’s Day with the three generations coming together as family, because we never know when it will be our last “have to day.” I think last year, we all had an idea that it might be our last Father’s Day with Dad and in spite of the location for the celebration, we made it perfect for him.
We never know and we don’t want to be left with regrets. I have no regrets. I resolved any issues I might have had with my father long before he took his last breath. He loved me and I loved him. Today, I’m left with emptiness in the knowledge that I never get to share another “have to day” with Dad. But I have some of his things. I have photos. I have letters he wrote me when I was little girl. I have gifts he gave me at Christmas. But more importantly, I have a special place in my heart that is reserved just for Dad and this Sunday, that place will shine a little brighter.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of our lives that we forget the simple beauty of sharing a meal with our loved ones…of making plans when plans seem impossible. But what I know for sure is that those plans are worth making because you never want to live with regret. Hug your Dad especially tight today…tell him you love him…forgive him for past mistakes…because we just never know.
Happy Father’s Day Everyone!
Please share your favorite Dad memories below: