First father’s day without dad

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

I didn’t need bricks to build my wall, I only needed fear and hate. How those two loved and needed each other…The Feral Wall

The Feral Wall


Diana Creel Elarde


When he died I was ten. I can’t say I understood it. After all, when you are that age time, life, death they have no true relationship with you. I mostly thought he would return, someday I would see him walking up the street straight to our house. So that summer I hung around our porch more than anything else. Even my mother’s constant nagging to go find someone to play with couldn’t detour my vigilant watch.

It was months before I began to see there was no hope of his return. That life, my life would go on without him. After a while I felt like there was a big hole in my heart and if I got too close I’d fall right into it. Getting around the hole became more of my purpose. Healing the large hole never occurred to me.

How do you avoid a big hole? I mean you have to plan your entire life around it. What even causes a hole to come into your life? I figured if I had never loved him I would have never felt that hole in my heart. Love for me became what to avoid, what to run away from.

Men build walls with bricks, carefully laying them on top of each other, one after the other. I didn’t need bricks to build my wall, I only needed fear and hate. How those two loved and needed each other. It’s true. I think fear and hate were overjoyed when I united them. They clasped arms like brothers and they built my secure wall. And I let them. I certainly didn’t need another hole in my heart and if the wall stopped the pain, all the better.

I could tell my mother, she didn’t like the wall I built. She recognized where it came from, how it got built. Try as she could, I was more than determined not to listen to any words she had to say. Rebel I told myself and so rebellion with her became my life. I added her to my list of those who the wall in my life was for.

And fear and hate, they became stronger.

The feral kittens came to our house late in the fall, right before the calendar deemed it winter. The cold came early that year and it made the earth that crusty hard. The leaves hadn’t quite left the trees then, and the sky, it was always gray.

The kittens were little, with no mom cat in sight. They were as afraid of me as I was of life. Their constant mews and cries were too much for me and I begged my mother do something, don’t let them die. She looked hard at them, but softer on me so I knew she was considering it.

“Get the small dog house out of the garage,” she instructed me, “and I’ll give you some blankets.”

Feeling the lift in my heart I ran to the garage finding dog house for the dog we never got after he died. I placed it on the far edge of the back porch, lining it with the blankets my mother gave me. When my work was done she came out to inspect it.

“Don’t expect too much here,” she warned. “These are wild cats they don’t like humans. And if you start to care for them they will always depend on you.”

I didn’t want to hear those words, convinced I would change their minds. Even the wall around my heart quivered the warnings telling me not to get close, not to care.

“Ok,” I agreed, but secretly hoped it be different.

And so, the kittens thrived. Ate the food I gave them. Slept in the safely of the house I created but, still hissed and ran whenever I tried to greet them. Even when I sat so very quietly out on the porch, it never stopped the fear they had for me.


“Don’t resent them for who they are,” came my mother’s voice from the screen door after one of my failed attempts to once again make friends with my wards. It was troubling to me that no matter my efforts, the cats just wouldn’t come close.

One day, so dark for me with the memories of him, the hissing of the cats was just too much. I couldn’t take it anymore, I broke. The wall started shaking and with it came the flood of my hurt. Hate and fear they tried hard to keep the wall up, to keep away the pain, but it was no use. It all came down.

At first, I hid behind the garage not wanting her, or even the world to hear or see me. It was like a violent force was trying to escape my body and it was tearing at my inner being. I held onto the side of the garage as my sobs jerked my body. Slowly I made my way up the yard finally yelling out for my mother in a great wail before the steps of the porch.

She came running, sure that I had been hurt or injured. Checking my body over she found nothing and then her arms just held me. She held me, while that hard, hard wall came down within me.


Later she brought me tea and wrapped me in a big blanket. I sat on her lap being the child I was. Her words were smoothing, the tea was warm and it wasn’t long before my eyes closed, my head resting on her chest.

I don’t know how long I was out or how long she held me. The dream came as soon as my eyes closed taking me directly to him. He looked different than I remembered, happier and younger.

“Don’t you miss me?” I cried out to him seeing his smile.

“Well I’m with you every day,” he replied back. “There isn’t a moment I have missed since I crossed to heaven’s way.”

Then he told me how proud he was of how well I took care of those cats. How I gave them life, even though they couldn’t get over their fear of me.

“But,” he said, “Remember their fear stopped them from being held, stopped them from getting any more pleasure in their lives then just food and shelter. As tricky as it is to bring people close, we miss so much when we don’t let ourselves love. Think about it,” were his final words.

When I awoke I was snugged up in his favorite chair in the living room. The house was quiet and the shadows of late afternoon were in the room. I heard my mother’s voice in the yard, thanking someone before she shut the back door.

I got up to see what was happening and found her carrying in the smallest sweetest kitten I ever saw. Gently, she handed it over to me.

“I made a trade,” she told me. “I hope you don’t mind. There was a friend of mine looking for cats to live in his barn and help keep mice away. His house cat had three kittens she couldn’t take care of. This is the one that survived. I figured she needed someone to love, since all of her family was gone.”

I held that kitten so close, looking down into her face. If there was anything left of that wall I built, it disappeared the moment her small paw gently reached out to touch my face.


copyright DElarde2015