Tomorrow is Father’s Day; a day that has been complex most of my life. My father was barely in it during the first three years (when he and my mother were married) and disappeared more and more as the years went on. This year will be the first year when my father is not just absent from my life, but also absent from the earth.
My father died on November 15th. Strangely, that’s a fact that I sometimes forget as his silence in my life had been true for so long before my brother texted about the heart attack that ended our father’s life. I cried that morning, and have cried since then. As I type these words, there is the tension in my eyes of tears that could form if I let go.
Yet it never feels like grieving for a lost parent. As I wrote about in a post in December, the pain is about unknown stories and unsaid words. Six months of asking questions about him has led to little new information as his torched-earth path destroyed most good memories about him. He was a damaged man who damaged those around him. The light that I choose to believe was somewhere inside was dim among powerful shadows.
Tomorrow is Father’s Day. And I can celebrate that my life has been blessed by non-dad men, including teachers who guided my academic growth, while modeling what a good man looks like. My step-father is someone I can rely on in any time of need. My grandfather still offers the strongest hugs of safety. And now I have friends who are dads, and let me babysit their kids when I need a small person distraction. Most days I am able to recognize these individuals as (almost) filling the father-shaped hole in my heart.
For this Father’s Day, I know part of the time will be pulled into thinking about what this type of holiday is supposed to mean, rather than the absences it can highlight for too many of us. Rather than celebration, I’ll be aiming for peace, rest, and space from too much “Happy Father’s Day” marketing. I will be following the wisdom shared by my advisor when I emailed him last fall about taking a break from my dissertation:
“Thank you for sharing with me. That is a painful and complex set of circumstances you are in and you will be in my prayers…. Give me a call if you need to, but please take a break and take care of yourself as you best know how”
I encourage you as well, dear readers, to spend this day (and really, every day) however is best for your head and heart.