Everyone has a dad this Sunday
I know that I have taken up a great deal of space in this column writing about my now-deceased mother, but upon reflection, I realize that I haven’t devoted much time to my dad. And that’s a shame, because he was a really incredible individual who deserves to be remembered as often as possible. I do remember him, in my own mind, every single day of my life, in some way or another, but even my kids pointed out to me that I talk about their nana far more than I do their poppa. I feel rather badly about that.
I’ve been thinking about Dad an inordinate amount over the past few days, partially because of all the Father’s Day ads that are everywhere. And partially because a very dear friend whom I’ve had since high school called me early last Saturday morning to tell me that her father had passed away the night before. She, of course, is gutted, and when we’ve talked over the few days since then, she’s said things to me about how she feels, adding that she says them to me because she knows I “get it.”
I get it, all right. And sometimes I don’t know how to get rid of it, even ten years after my own dad’s passing. Professionals say that there are five different stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). I unexpectedly got to bounce around through anger and acceptance again over the weekend, after my friend called. Angry because, just like with my dad, Type 1 diabetes played a gigantic role in taking my friend’s dad. Insidious, horrible, cloying, unforgiving disease it is. In my family alone, it’s taken an uncle, my paternal grandmother and grandfather, and my dad. And I get overwhelmingly angry when I learn of another life that didn’t stand a chance against it. Although it, too, has affected our family, it’s not the big C that strikes fear in us, it’s the dreaded D.
The other three stages don’t affect me much any more – I get angry that my folks aren’t here, but can accept pretty quickly that they aren’t. My friend has a bit of a road ahead of her, and because I “get it,” I’ll be more than happy to walk that road with her.
The first stumble she’ll have will be this weekend. Her beloved dad will be laid to rest on Saturday morning, and then the very next day, her backyard will be filled with the scent of barbecue as families everywhere celebrate the dads in their lives. That certainly won’t be easy. It won’t be easy for anyone who doesn’t have a dad to hang with this Sunday. I don’t. My husband doesn’t. Countless numbers won’t. But hopefully, oh so hopefully, we will all spend some time thinking about our dads.
Here’s what I’ll be thinking. That my dad was something else. I’ve learned a lot about him since he died, and while the things I’ve learned are not all rosy and positive, they have shed light on an awful lot of things that didn’t make sense during my childhood.
I’ll be thinking about how he didn’t like his little practically bald head touched – and how it felt when I did get to touch it (peach fuzz).
I’ll be thinking about much he did around the house. By today’s standards, he wouldn’t be in the naughts yet – he did all the “blue jobs” when he pottered about in the garage fixing things, or worked on the pool, or built fences (that are still standing around the house I grew up in, out on Highway 47, I might add). But he certainly wasn’t idle, a work ethic both my brother and I inherited, and one I’m hoping will display itself in my children soon!
I’ll be thinking about he adored cooking, and mourning the fact that he took his Chinese garlic ribs recipe with him to the grave. Should have written that one down. But he did leave his fabulous Caesar salad dressing recipe with me (after making me prepare it five bazillion times), and I have just recently taught my daughters the same fabulous concoction.
I’ll even be thinking of all the things that drove me nuts – his incessant need to always be the one who won our arguments. His penchant for having an agenda for everything, even for Sundays and holidays. Especially holidays that involved camping. Mere mention of the word ‘itinerary’ sends shudders through me. I could go on, but those things just make me smile, now. They don’t mean that much any more.
I’d so love to be contributing to backyard barbecue smell this Sunday, celebrating my dad at the farm (he would have just LOVED to have seen the farm) with a beer and a well-cooked meal, maybe even Chinese garlic ribs. Acceptance again – I know it’s not possible. But it doesn’t stop me wishing that it was.
The last time I saw and talked to my dad, he was lending my then-father-in-law and myself a few hand tools to do some DIY at my house. You had better believe I still have those tools.
To all the dads out there, have a wonderful Father’s Day. Enjoy the ties, the school-made art, the love. To those whose dads are no longer here, you enjoy Father’s Day too. Enjoy the memories – they’re all that’s ever left of any of us, really.
And to my friend – you’ve got this.