The first Father’s Day, without your father, getting by

Father’s Day

By Diana Elarde

I check my watch, weighing the time.  Just enough minutes to get my morning walk in before I have to shower and leave to get my mother.  The clock in my mind ticks as I try to locate shoes, my music and the keys to the condo.   Finally ready, I confirm my allotted time, the music starts as I walk down the steps from the condo on to the sidewalk.

Once outside I see the crowd gathering in the town park down the street.  Parked cars are lined up and down, and the end, the corner is blocked off.  As I approach the park I see people in their running outfits, preparing for a morning run through the streets.  Some runners are on the ground stretching to loosen morning muscles.  Others use their car as leverage; placing legs and arms in odd positions on fenders and open doors to achieve the same goal. Stretched and warm, they jog to the park.

Somehow I missed the announcement about this event.  My morning walk is now interrupted, requiring me to skirt around those who have the priority today.

It is not that I mind the presence of the others, it is that I have gotten used to the quiet walks, with the morning sounds or my music. I usually don’t have to dodge and avoid packs of runners, blocked off roads or policemen serious about protecting the runners as they cross streets.

I find a flyer on a pole. “Support our Father’s Day Run, our fathers are important!”

Ah, Father’s Day.  I had tried all week to erase it from my mind.  I went out of my way to ignore the cards in the stores, the ads on TV, and mostly the dull ache in my heart.  It is my first Father’s Day without my father and I struggle to find where this celebration now exists within me.

Later today I will take my mother to the cemetery.  The last place we honored his life.  We will stand at his graveside, still waiting for the marker to be finished.   We will say our hellos, our goodbyes, not knowing now how to celebrate him. Still confused and saddened by the roles we are forced to play now that he has passed.

I look at the pack of runners all anxious to start their run.  Fathers hold hands with smaller children, getting them excited to start.  The new baby strollers are all revving up with their slick aerodynamic design, carefully crafted for today’s active families.

I tried to explain to my husband this week about the fathers that meet at shops and the farmers’ market with their kids in tow.   Early Saturday morning I see children leaving coffee shops with hot chocolate mustaches, sipping their way down the street, steps behind dad and the stroller. The fathers stuff the strollers with their purchases from the farmers’ market, arranging a head of lettuce next to a small child. They stand in groups, watching their kids throw pennies into the park fountain.  What do the dads talk about when they meet on the streets? Do they ask, “Hey is your kid rolling over yet?”   “How many teeth does he have?”   Or do they talk sports. “How about those Tigers?”  “Did you catch the last World Cup game?”   Or even, did “Venus win her match yesterday?”

I marvel at their level of involvement, their overall enjoyment of spending the time with their children. I like to see the fathers interacting with their children.  Somehow in this world it gives me hope.  For if more fathers feel connected with their kids, maybe conflict would quiet.  Maybe negotiation will be the first choice, not second or third, when differences break out. Maybe we can build a world where children are cherished and do not go to bed hungry or alone.  Perhaps by understanding the simple world of a child, the adult world won’t seem so complex. It’s a funny hope.  One that doesn’t probably doesn’t make much sense, but I can’t help to feel it is significant for our future.

My dad was very involved with us, but back when I was a child that was rare.  Most of my friends didn’t see much of their fathers, gone to do business, or golfing or to events far from appropriate for a small companion.

I remember a day when I must have been about seven years old my father took me to a building on the campus of the University of Michiganin Ann Arbor.  He held my hand as we walked and I felt so important, happy that my father had decided to take me with him for the day.  Surprisingly I still know where that building is, its street, it location.  To this day, that building still evokes a special bond of how impactful that moment was to me.

My father was an elementary teacher for thirty years, at a time when very few men taught those grades.  He influenced and connected with many children during his tenure.  Teaching – his love, his passion.  At the time of his passing I was amazed by the number of his past students who wrote notes to us through FaceBook telling us how grateful they were to have known him, how he influenced their lives so long ago.  I became a teacher one wrote. From another, the military is where I made my home after his WWII stories; I became a writer, he encouraged me to write.   Different lives forming and transforming, influenced by a man who for many was like a second father during that year in his classroom.

And what of my time with my father?  I struggle to know how to define it, to understand it now.  Confused by what was between us.  The times when I was his young daughter, the days when he was ’Dad’. And then, the dark days – the hardness, the anger his illness created in his last few years. So many difficult sick days, marked in sadness, in stress. Long nights in the ER and such exhaustion. Helpless times when his breathe was short, shallow, scary.   Days of before his illness merge with his sick days, hard to separate, to accommodate.  All too fresh, too painful to think of or sort out.  “Time,” I tell myself like a silent prayer to be heard, “just time, the good memories will win over.” But on this day, this first Father’s Day without my dad, I just do what I can to get by.

copyright2012 Elarde

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15 thoughts on “The first Father’s Day, without your father, getting by

  1. Susan Bristol says:

    Diana,
    What a beautiful story. I’ll have to put my thoughts on paper regarding my own father who died when I was just 17. I’ll also do the same for my mother. Thank you for inspiring me.

  2. Thank you Susan for sharing your thoughts – I would encourage you to write!

  3. Donna Donahoe says:

    This is my first fathers day without my father and I don’t know how I am going to get through it. I feel like just laying here and forgetting all about life until Monday and then I think to myself my mom needs me. I feel as though I have lost all purpose in life; it was to make my dad proud and take care of my kids. They are now 22 and 23 and while they will still need me it isn’t always when I need to be neede, wish me luck!

  4. Thank you Donna for having the courage to share your thoughts and feeling on such an universal and personal journey. Grief is individual, each of us expressing it in our own way and yes, there are those very difficult days. Honor them, accept them as part of the path. And your purpose, its not really lost, although I know from my own road it certainly feels that way. It is in re-creation, finding new ways to be present in your life.
    Donna I would wish for you peace for the days of grief; courage for the difficult ones and love for healing.

  5. Leesie says:

    Hi… I just found your post randomly while searching online. This will also be my first father’s day without my dad. He passed away suddenly and completely unexpectedly (no previous health issues, passed away less than two days after going to the ER) in late March, two days before his birthday… and I find at times, that I am still unable to fully comprehend or accept that he is gone. All of the advertisements and reminders of Father’s Day has been heartbreaking, and I don’t really know how I will endure this weekend. However, I will have to remain strong for my mother. I wish you comfort and peace this weekend, knowing that our fathers are alive in our hearts.

    • Leesie,
      It is both hard to comprehend and initially accept, particularly when it is so sudden. And yes you are right, alive in our hearts and souls.
      In peace and light,
      Diana

  6. Em says:

    I feel the same confused. I lost my grandfather and a month later my dad. This is the first fathers day without both. These men shaped my life and my husband still doesn’t compare to them. I just can’t stop crying. It is nice to know that I’m not alone on this sad day. I hope I can honor them tomorrow.

    • Em,
      I am so very sorry to hear of your loss.
      Tears become the courage of a strong person. Expressing them helps. I have no doubt you have honored both your grandfather and dad in many ways. And, you are not alone. It is by far the most universal concern expressed here – trying to cope on a day of honoring and remembering.
      In peace and light,
      Diana

  7. Jardin says:

    Thank you for this post. I needed to read about someone else’s grief to help me cope with my own. My dad died unexpectedly, yet intentionally, a little less than two months ago. I’m 24 and in the military far away from my family for comfort and tomorrow has been haunting me for a few weeks now. I’ve been trying to tune it out but that seems to be virtually impossible. I can sympathize with your struggle to focus on all the wonderful memories of our time together, instead of the last year of uncharacteristic behavior before he ultimately took his untimely leave from us. If u can take one thing from this post it will be as you simply put it, “Time”. Thank you.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. If writing has taught me anything it is expressing your feelings helps on many levels. My thoughts and prayers will be with you also on thi day. And as a daughter of a WWII vet, thank you for your service.

  8. Elliesh says:

    I’m 19, live in England and my father passed away in Feburary this year. It is fathers day this sunday, the first without my Dad and the day before would have been his 60th birthday. So i tough weekend coming up. Searched on the internet on how to get by this was by far the best i have come across. The sentence “this first Father’s Day without my dad, I just do what I can to get by.” is all the advice i need. Thankyou for writing this and sharing your thoughts and feelings.

  9. Mike says:

    Today is my first Father’s Day without him for me it has been a terrible week first being his birthday, then two day’s later he was told he had Cancer.
    I find it difficult watching adverts on television and walking past card shops.
    I try to find comfort in knowing we will meet again someday but it’s not easy.
    I really feel for those on here who are going through the same thing.

    • Mike,
      I am so sorry for your loss and I understand your pain. Sometimes until we find peace, we can only do what we can to get by. Each person’s journey in grief is so individual and personal. Remember to be kind to yourself through it.

      • Mike says:

        Thank you for your kind comment.
        I do belive and hope we will all see each other one day.
        Our loved ones are now without pain.
        It’s those who are left behind feel the pain of separation and loss.
        I was told by a women I met at the Hospice where my Dad, was staying that when we lose someone it is heaven’s gain and it is seen as a massive celebration of someone who has “come home”

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