That little pang of sadness on Father’s Day is back.
I feel it quietly, when my husband is opening his cards and we get together with our kids. I don’t have anyone to send a card to today and no one to call on the phone to wish him a happy day, the way I used to do. It’s been 30 years, but it doesn’t go away. I miss my Dad.
I know he saved me. I grew up with a mentally ill Mom, five siblings and more tragedies than any of us deserved. He could have left us and his life would have been a lot easier. I could have become a statistic of substance abuse, or other malfunction but I didn’t.
Somehow, I survived, grew up repairing the damage within and turned into a productive adult. I will always admire in him because he stayed with us when it would have made more sense to walk away and save himself from the burden and the pain. I think they call that being honorable. He was loyal, courageous and he kept his kids together.
His being honorable was the best thing in my life at that time. I watched what he did and took it in. He refused to give up hope that things would get better. He worked so hard to keep paying the enormous medical bills for my Mom, and feeding us and keeping us clothed, and doing what he could to try to be both parents to us. He never complained about his responsibilities. He went to bars to escape his own pain, but he always came home.
He taught me a whole lot of things little girls growing up in the 1950’s didn’t always get a chance to learn. How to swim properly and fast. How to ride a bike, hit a baseball, throw a punch and hit a target with a 22 caliber rifle. He made me believe that I was capable of a lot. Turned out I was.
I took on becoming a triathlete last year at age 63. I’m sure he had made me believe in my capabilities enough to try it, even at this stage of life. Did it, got hooked, and I’m still at it. I learned to trust my physical strength first from him.
My Dad was a WW II vet who had reached the rank of Major. He hated war but did his duty and I was in awe of his bravery and patriotism. I still put the flag up on all the days we put up flags. It’s remembering him and his his love for our country I think of every time.
All these years after his passing, I still feel his presence whenever something wonderful happens in my life. I know he would be proud and telling all his buddies. He liked to brag about his kids’ achievements.
During the later years of his life, he had financial struggles with a down economy. It affected his advertising business the point of nearly ending it. He needed to talk things over and we developed an adult friendship as we had never had before. For the last 10 years I had with him, we shared everything. Our worries, our triumphs, our weekly events were discussed in long phone conversations. He was interested in everything I did, and encouraged me to try anything I wanted to do. He followed my nursing career through its path and transition to law school. He was the first person I called when I passed the Bar. He was ecstatic. Gave him something new to brag about.
My Dad was a brilliant man, flawed and difficult at times, but I adored him. I could ask him a question about anything and he knew the answer or where to get the answer. Long before the internet, I had my own personal Google in my Dad. How I treasured that! I loved to ask his advice, as he unfailingly gave me great advice. What better gift can a father give than that loving support, encouragement and help through one’s life, even as an adult?
I stopped caring about his faults a long time before he died. I forgave every shortcoming he had. I look back and I see all the good he did for me, for our family, for his troubled wife, for the world, and I am still in awe. At his bedside before he passed away, not sure if he could hear me, I told him how much I loved him and I thanked him again, as I often had. There was peace. I am so grateful for what he was to me.
If you still have a Dad with you this Father’s Day, please do the same: forgive all the faults, overlook all the failings, just see the good if you can. I wish for you that same peace I feel now, though mine is mixed with that little pang. May you treasure what you have.
Until next time,