My Fathers

It’s Father’s Day. Again. This happens every year, and my dad’s been dead for the last ten of them. The holiday always sneaks up on me and forces me into a dilemma. Do I want to…

a) Focus on my father, grieve his death, honor the impact he had on my life, cry, throw things, resent him, laugh, smile, pray — whatever my relationship with him is asking of me right now, or

b) Pretend the holiday’s not happening. Work, sleep, hang out with people who could also care less about the holiday, go about business as usual, or

c) Focus on my other fathers. My step-father, my grandfathers, my uncles, and all of the masculine mentors who have carried and guided me, even when I believed I was dadless?

I lie, though — it’s not really a dilemma. I’m going to do all of the above. I always do.

In a moment of introspection or self-pity, I’ll collapse into the fetal position, hug my knees, and remember what it was like to have a living father, and what a privilege it was to be able to argue with him incessantly and blame him for everything. What a gift it was to walk through his five-year illness as an adolescent. How much I value the way those years stripped away so many illusions and forced me to face so many fears. How much I miss him sometimes. How much I wish I could know what would have changed as both of us continued to grow up. (And has it really been ten years?!)

But I won’t stay there long. I’ll have work to do. A big project is launching (I’ll tell you about it on Monday), and I’ll be up all night making sure it survives. I’ve got an acupuncture appointment. A body to revive and a brain to rest. I’ve got blogging to do, for chrissake. Twittering. Phone calls. I don’t have time for Father’s Day, thankyouverymuch.

But I’ll call my step-father — a strong, quiet man who brought stability into my life without placing any demands, expectations, or judgments on me. A man who’s so consistent and sane that I often forget to be grateful for him. A man who healed a huge part of my life just by showing up. I’ll find the words to thank him for that. Somehow. Hopefully. It’s a hard task. If not this year, then next year.

And my dad’s father. The grandfather who put his hand on my shoulder at my dad’s funeral and said, “I want you to know that I’ll be your father now. Anything you need, you just ask. I’m here.” And he’s kept his word. I won’t even start to tell you how present he’s been for me, and how much we’ve both fought through our own prejudices (him being a staunch conservative and me being a wild liberal) to love each other, because I’ll start crying.

Too late.

Then there’s my dad’s younger brother. The uncle who has stepped up to be just as much a father to me as anyone else. The confidence, the pep talks, the advice, the rib-cracking hugs, the jokes, the morning pancakes, the unquestioned aero-bed to crash on. When I say “I’m going home for Christmas,” I usually mean I’m going to his house. That’s just become how it is.

There’s more. I have a lot of uncles, and one of them is reading this blog (Hi Roger!). And grandfathers — for the longest time I had three of them, and I just lost the first one last year. The tall strong deaf carpenter who spoke with his hands and his smile. We didn’t know each other the way I get to know most people, but he gave me piggyback rides long after I grew into my 5’10” body, and he caught dinner for me in his lake.

And all the men I’ve worked under, who held up a mirror to me, told me I was strong, and challenged me to hold my ground. Aaron. Stephen. Dax. Terry. Hugh. Wayne. Daniel. Patrick. David. Alain. Dave. Chris. Mark. Thank you.

There’s more. There’s a lot more. There are some very special ones that I don’t even want to allude to here because I’m still afraid to admit how much I’ve needed them. Maybe I’ll find a way to thank them secretly. Somehow. Hopefully.

Maybe next year.

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7 Responses to “My Fathers”

  1. Richard Says:

    A beautiful post. Hope you have a good day. (I am lucky enough to have my own father and now we both get into the movies together for “senior” prices!)

  2. whittles Says:

    You and I approach father’s day very similarly. That’s pretty much exactly my plan.

    Thanks for articulating it so well. I have some phone calls to make.

  3. schmutzie Says:

    You have truly hit the lottery of fathers, it seems. I loved reading about these masculine figures and their place in your life.

  4. Elisa Camahort Says:

    Lovely post.

  5. GraceD Says:

    Blessed and beautiful Sarah, I am your sister in solidarity. Know that you have my faith and fellowship always. Know that with your (mended) heart.

    I want to say this gently and with love – we do not roll into our fetal positions with self pity. Rather, we curl up animal-like for protection. We’re hugging ourselves, giving our mended hearts the necessary solace that we should have received from those who should have taken care of us.

    Then, after a good sob, we unfold, stand up and carry on. I find that to be a miracle, as really, we have no historical reason to have hope, much less have a life.

    Here’s to hope and a life.

    Love,
    Grace

  6. Melinda Says:

    Wiping away a tear.

  7. Nancy (Mom) Says:

    This is a beautiful post, Sarah. Your step-father thinks so too! Thanks for your words. I finally understand, at least a bit, how Father’s day is a bummer when your father is no longer here. I said to your brother, “It really stinks, doesn’t it?” and he replied, “Yep, there’s no one to call.”

    But you have reminded me that there are lots of people to call–but the fetal position works too. Thanks. Love, your now fatherless Mom (and Steve)