Worst Father’s Day Ever

It’s been twenty years since the first Father’s Day without my dad. These years have been bitter-sweet. I have children of my own. I haven’t been able to celebrate him the way my kids celebrated me. But this year is different.

Riddled with confusion from being the best dad I can be, I struggle with the memories of my own dad. I can’t even speak with the last person who saw him alive. “Thanks, mom! You’ve done to me what you did to him! You’ve pushed me away the same way you pushed him…AWAY! I blame YOU. Are you happy now, mom?” Not with bullets or daggers; but with coldness and distance. Silence is as painful as any weapon. But it works both ways (mom)! “Mom, answer your PhOnE!”

She blamed HIM for my brother’s death. He got to hear it every day. My brother didn’t get to say good bye to his dad either. He never got to BE a dad. He didn’t even get to meet my daughter (who was only a few months old when he expired). But my dad did. Holding my daughter was one of the last things he did the day he died. But he never got to meet my son.

My son hears the stories that I tell about my own dad. He gets to hear the tales of the lessons my dad taught me. But there are some things my son can not be told. Not for fear of my own embarrassment, but for concern that he might behave in a similar way. But as I watch closer, I observe my son emulating traits that I was sure my dad had taken to his grave. If not for genetics, then what? How?

TWENTY YEARS AGO, I celebrated my first Father’s Day. I held my baby girl in my arms. I thought she’d always be Daddy’s Girl. Now the only thing that calls me “Daddy” is my Hulu account. The children have all grown up.

I refuse to accept the facts. I refuse to apologize for the things that have passed. I will not make amends. This isn’t a twelve step program!

Sure I have grief! But for sixteen of those twenty years, my mom insisted that her grief was more important. It wasn’t enough for her to attend the support groups, she had to facilitate them; she had to manage the pain for others; as if her service would alleviate the guilt. As if the guilt would exonerate the responsibility.

I’m still here! And I miss my dad.

I don’t know what the plan was. I don’t know if there WAS a plan. I don’t know if it worked. All I know is the wisdom of realizing that there’s plenty that I DON’T KNOW and plenty that I don’t understand. Is this what fatherhood is supposed to be? I’m pretty sure this is not what TWENTY YEARS of manhood is supposed to feel like.

I miss my dad. I miss my kids more. I was an even better dad than my own (I think). But how is that measured anyway? I mean, I am here for my kids. I serve kids who are not my own. I mentor and volunteer. I support and counsel my kids. I celebrate them and redirect them when needed.

I am most recently remembered for the way I wield a punishment. I call it motivation. My kids don’t cry from a spanking. My kids anger because I’ve taken away something that is important to them. Their mother never had to warn, “wait until your father gets home…” because I’ve always been close by.

Father’s Day offers more than just a recognition of dear old Dad. It’s a recognition of what it means to be a dad. For me, it’s the opportunity to reflect on the job I’ve done. It’s the self-analysis of how I’m doing. It’s the preparation of what’s to come.

I’ve had more years withOUT my dad than WITH my dad. That’s still more years than some have had with their dad at all. That’s still more than my siblings have had with our dad. That’s still more than my other brothers have had with their own dad. My dad RAISED my brothers whose own dad was busy saving the world. MY dad loved all of his kids, even when they stopped loving him (or at least that’s what my mom used to say before she stopped talking to me).

MY dad wasn’t just mine. He was a father, a step father, and a son. His dad also died too soon. I never met his dad. As a matter of fact, I never met my mom’s dad either. So I suppose I won’t be celebrating Grand Parent’s Day either.

This year Father’s Day will be different. My kids have lives of their own. And although they aren’t parents yet, I’m assured that when their day comes they may understand better. They may experience what it feels to give so much and receive so little. Appreciation hits differently after TWENTY YEARS.

Kids, this year my door will be open. So there will be no need to knock or ring the bell. The bell has tolled for many fathers. But not for me. There will be no visitors (and no invitations). I’ll be sitting on the couch watching Hulu. I’ll be selecting the account that is set up just for me. I’ll be there, but Daddy won’t be hugged up with his kids. I’ll watch other Dad’s with similar tales—because Hollywood portrays dads differently than moms.

Moms receive their flowers when they are living. Dad’s buy the flowers but rarely receive them. I’d prefer a bouquet of tools anyway. But Sears shut their doors years ago. “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!” This year, I’m dodging Father’s Day. That is all…

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