Fatherless on Father’s Day
This Father’s Day, I’ll be spending the day at my dad’s gravesite.
It’ll be two years this August since my father passed away. I thought the wounds would heal by now. But they haven’t. Instead, it feels like the scar tissue is healing all wrong.
The first year was a blur. Days dissolving into one another, melting like the clock in one of my father’s favorite Dali paintings. Days spent focused on checking off items on a to-do list. Months spent trying to carve out some sort of a routine in a half-empty house.
Time heals all wounds; you hear that all the time. But I don’t think that’s true. Time tears off the Band-Aid, little by little, instead of ripping it off in one fell swoop. As the days, weeks, months and years go by, you just get caught up in routine.
Time doesn’t heal. You just stop seeing that person in your everyday. The image of your father walking through the door, in his purplish scrubs, holding his lunch box, smiling with his whole face like he always did—tired but happy to be home, starts to fade.
The image of him sitting at the dinner table, praising your mom’s cooking, over time, evaporates. You no longer hear him recounting how your annoying brother, Charlie, sleeps on his head and purrs non-stop, waking him up throughout the night. You no longer smell his cologne permeating the house — a strong smell, too, since his faulty sinuses blunted his sense of smell. You no longer remember the sound of his laugh or his voice. You try hard to concentrate, to quiet your thoughts so you can hear it, but it’s gone. You no longer shop for him. You no longer get home and show off what you bought that day shopping with your mom, while he actually pays attention and even comments — all the while you know that most men couldn’t care less. You no longer watch him spring from the couch watching his all-time favorite team Manchester United. You no longer listen to him talk breathlessly about how they did that day or his dream trip to catch a game in England.
These images once at the forefront of your mind become distant signs that you pass on a carless road, miles and miles away, forgotten figments of a trip long ago.
The tears tend to come less frequently now, but his absence is still felt on a regular basis. He shows up in every sad song—and in the happy ones, too. There are some you can’t even listen to, like anything by the Gypsy Kings, ABBA or really any Russian music. He shows up any time something great happens, and you ache to tell him, to make him proud of what you’ve accomplished. He shows up when you catch your mom’s sad expression, and you wonder if she’s thinking about him. And you know, she is. He shows up at the store as you walk by the card section with neon lights announcing that it is Father’s Day. He shows up in your inbox when you receive emails about Father’s Day gift guides.
Instead of picking out the perfect card or the perfect gift—nothing mushy or sugary sentimental but something funny and sweet—and writing what an incredibly patient, compassionate, supportive father he’s always been, you’ll be mourning him at his gravesite.
You will bring him a bouquet of carnations—the flowers he loved bringing you and your mom. You will sit by the tablet that bears his name—the thing that makes his passing a tangible truth—and you’ll tell him how much you miss him. You’ll wonder if he’s proud of you. You’ll wonder if he can really see you. And you will hope that he knew exactly how much you always loved him and always will.
Writer Meghan O’Rourke put it perfectly in her essay on Mother’s Day: “Where will I be on Sunday? Where am I now? I wonder. Mainly, I feel that while my grief has lessened—dramatically—my sense of being motherless has intensified.”
My sense of being fatherless also has intensified. I feel it especially when I watch a bride dancing with her father. Whenever I see a dad tearing up as his little girl dons the dress she’ll wear down the aisle. Whenever I realize how odd it is for life to return to “normal” when someone so pivotal has been taken from you.
As all these thoughts swirl in your head, you tell yourself, gently, that there’s nothing you can do to undo this loss. You know this. And so you try to take comfort in the memories. You try to remember the jokes, the birthdays, the everyday joys.
You take comfort in your resemblance. I know that I am my father’s daughter. I have his nose, his fingers and his smile. I am a miniature version of this man. And, again, that brings me comfort, too.
Time does not. I will always miss my father. I will always feel his loss. It will intensify on some holidays. And it will intensify on some days, out of the blue, when it’ll hit me that I am fatherless.
When these days inevitably come, I will cling to the memories even tighter. I will look down at my father’s fingers typing on a keyboard, trying to make a meal, scribbling on an envelope, wearing an engagement ring, holding a baby or two, watching the wrinkles appear and realize that his heart beats in mine. That will bring me comfort. It’s all I’ve got but that’s not so bad.
Tartakovsky, M. (2018). Fatherless on Father’s Day. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/fatherless-on-fathers-day/