I checked out the lyrics of some songs that I listened to over and over during dads illness. None of them said quite what I wanted to say. Those were dark days. This Father’s Day I don’t get to pick up the phone to wish my dad a special day, or give him a hug. I have a few material things like some of his snap back caps, his hunting cap and vest, the ring my mother gave to him in the 50’s, one special gold chain I have not taken off since dad wanted me to have it. He wore it all the time, I cherish it. What I do have though, is a gift that dad gave to me – something I can never lose or will never have to remove. Our hearts are forever connected, my memory bank is full and I am the same ‘man child’ my father was. I laugh like my dad, I smack my belly like my dad. I inherited many of his traits making it really easy to remember where I came from.
I remember back to 1972, when dad first ever battled cancer. I was not quite 10. The community took up donations to send my parents to London, England where dad had 3 surgeries. Writing letters to him was a real treat for me and I looked forward to the letter writing. The night my parents returned was like a dream. It seemed like I had not seen them forever, they were gone about 4 or 5 months. All their friends and family were there to greet them. But what I remember most is how he grabbed me and picked me up in his arms – hugging each other so tightly, I never wanted it to end. When I gave him a kiss on the cheek he looked at me and said “give me another one of those and you can stay home from school tomorrow.” I didn’t hesitate for a second. Then I asked if I kept giving him kisses, could I stay home all week. That’s a great memory.
He often mentioned throughout our chats in my adult life, how thankful he had felt to still be here, living life. I think that is part of why he was so carefree in his older years. His grandchildren really changed the rough exterior and the heart he could never fully open became soft. I never saw that side of him growing up, but it was something I always wished for. I think that is why the night they returned from England in 72′ is such a vivid memory for me as this was the father I imagined in my head. After I moved away and the years started to pass – my dad and I grew closer. We respected one another, could talk openly about matters of the heart. I felt such a bond with my dad as an adult, where as a young boy I struggled to find that bond. I was satisfied in my heart as an adult man with how our relationship grew. There was no need for apologies or rehashing my childhood. I was happy with who we had become as father and son. In the last 15 – 20 years, my father became the father I always imagined and we just grew closer as we aged. I accepted our relationship for what it was . . . we came to understand one another and love each other without judgement.
So my first Father’s Day without him will be difficult, but I will make it a wonderful day and think of ‘dad’ things. His laugh is what I hear most, he was a jolly man with a great big heart.
Happy Father’s Day pops – love you like always.