There was a time I dreaded the third Sunday in June. I had nobody to call. Nobody to feel guilty about not visiting. Nobody to reminisce with.
My dad died when I was 16. As an only child, dealing with it wasn’t as easy as perhaps I let on. Sixteen is a weird age; you literally rotate between grown-up and screw-up by the minute.
But looking back, I realize November 14, 1988 changed my life forever. I had to play grown-up whether I liked it or not. My mother and I became partners, far too often, though, silent ones. She was focused on trying to keep a roof over our heads and making sure I didn’t lose momentum to go to college.
I was reprioritizing my life at the time, trying to compartmentalize it all.
And compartmentalizing worked 364 days a year, but not on Father’s Day.
It was about 10 years after my dad died that I realized what an ineffectual jerk I might look by my attempts to ignore the holiday. My mother had remarried by then to a great guy, who was also a father. And yet, I never even sent him a card or even made a call.
Perhaps in my head, I thought it was disrespectful to my own dad. Perhaps, I simply just wanted to ignore that missing father-son relationship I so desperately wanted as an adult.
And then came Father’s Day 2004, three months after the birth of my daughter. I found myself more excited about getting my first Father’s Day card than I had my most recent 10 birthdays.
I’ve done a 180 on Father’s Day. It’s gone from a holiday I feared remembering to one I can’t wait to celebrate. I’m only sorry I allowed myself to be so self-centered about the holiday to try and ignore it for 16 years.
So if you have lost a father or son and the thought of the holiday brings up that pain, try and rechannel it, if you can. Father’s Day is without a doubt my favorite holiday, second only to my kids’ birthdays. And I now view the day as an opportunity to love on my kids, share the good memories of my dad and hopefully self-reflect on how to be a better father and role model.
Fatherhood is the greatest privilege of my life, and I bet just about every other person who answers to the name of “dad” will agree. I’m only sorry it took my kids being born for me to appreciate it in the way it deserves.
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