Growing up, I was a daddy’s girl. The only girl, and the oldest child, my dad and I had that “Father of the Bride” relationship that seems unique to dads who have just one daughter. As I said before, my parents were divorced and most of my Sundays were spent with my dad at the track watching horses race, or at the mall where my walking wallet followed me around, waiting just outside the store with a proffered credit card so he didn’t have to actually endure the torture of entering a place that catered to pre-teen girls.
Since I was such a daddy’s girl, there was always something special about Father’s Day. Given the age difference between me and my brothers (my dad remarried and had more kids), Father’s Day was one of the few days a year that my dad had all of his children together. It was also the only time we ever let my dad pick what we were going to do. And of course, it was almost always something the rest of us absolutely hated. There was that year he made us go to the BBQ place that served food on trash can lids. Or the multiple years he dragged us to air shows, where I spent the entire day looking up at the sky trying not to develop a kink in my neck watching planes do things that I didn’t give a shit about.
But for every ridiculous outing, there was a good memory. Like the time at one of the air shows that my dad bought a dozen cookies at a vendor, handed them to my brother and then went to the rest room. My brothers and I shoved those cookies in our faces so fast and then worked really hard at trying to convince him he never bought any at all; Dad simply shook his head at his absurd children and bought a dozen more, and still shared them with us. Or the one that we told him that our cousin – his niece – had named her baby “Heaven” backwards, and he went on a 20 minute rant about “kids today” that had us almost peeing our pants. It was never a perfect day; more than likely, two of us kids got in a fight, someone undoubtedly spilled something, and he definitely said at least once that “we should have just stayed home,” as his wallet slowly emptied for whatever crap we wanted to buy… but it was always a day I looked forward to.
But now, for the third year, I really dread this week – the week leading into Father’s Day. Actually, since I lost my dad suddenly a little over two years ago, the time between the day after Mother’s Day until Father’s Day is pretty painful. For a month, I’m constantly reminded that the first most important man in my life isn’t here anymore. With every email that I get prompting me to “celebrate Dad,” I’m reminded that I won’t get that special moment when my dad walks me down the aisle. Every one of those sappy commercials that airs with a dad and little kids running, I think about how my kids will never know their granddad, their uncle’s namesake and more than likely one of theirs. And then there was that time right before the first Father’s Day that I had a full-on melt down when I accidentally went into that card aisle at CVS. Thanks again to that lady that broke into the box of tissues she was buying to hand me a few while I tried to convince her I wasn’t a complete lunatic.
Everyone that’s been through this – either losing a parent or not having one to begin with – has an opinion of what to do on the day of the year that celebrates them. But frankly, despite the multitude of options that appear when you Google it, it’s weird to know how to celebrate Father’s Day when your dad is gone. I don’t want to post a picture on Instagram or Facebook, because I don’t want to bring people down on a happy holiday, or even worse, for them to think that it’s a cry for pity. I don’t really want to go out, because sitting in restaurant with my brothers surrounded by families with dads serves as a depressing reminder of who is missing in ours. And never mind the cemetery – I hate that place. We tried that “let’s do something he would have liked doing” thing the first year, but going to his favorite restaurant or looking at planes flying around felt weird without him. But at the same time, it feels wrong – disrespectful even – to do nothing.
So this year, we are trying something a little different. Maybe it will be the right thing for us, or maybe it will totally suck like the past two years and we’ll try something else next year. But for this Father’s Day, instead of focusing on missing our dad, which we do every day anyway, my brothers and I have decided to celebrate the people who have stepped into his place as best they could since he’s been gone – our moms. Sure, it was just Mother’s Day, but these women also lost someone important – for my mother, her first love and for my stepmother, her husband – but yet they stepped up to be there for the three of us. So we can afford to give them another holiday after everything they’ve done for us. We’ll take them to their favorite restaurants, and while neither place involves trash can lids, I’m pretty sure that’s what my dad would want.
But I might just utter “kids today” at some random moment and then eat a cookie – just to let Dad know I’m thinking about him..
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