I check my watch, weighing the time. Just enough minutes to get in my morning walk before I have to shower and leave to get my mother. Once outside, I see the crowd gathering in the park down the street. I approach the park and see people in their running outfits, preparing for a race of some sort.
I find a flyer on a pole. It reads: 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, most of all, 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.
Today I will take my mother to the cemetery, the last place we honored his life. We will stand side by side at his grave, 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 begin. Fathers hold hands with smaller children, getting them excited to start. I tried to explain to my husband this week about the fathers who meet in shops and at the farmers market with their kids in tow. Early on Saturday mornings, 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. I marvel at their level of involvement, their overall enjoyment of spending time with their children. I love to sit in the park and watch their interactions.
My dad was like that, but when I was a child, that was rare. Most of my friends didn’t see much of their fathers, who were off doing business, or golfing, or at events far from appropriate for a small, young companion.
One of my fondest memories is of a day when I must have been about seven. My father took me to the University of Michigan. 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 recognize the building we went to, its street, its location. To this day, that building still evokes a special feeling of how impactful that moment was to me.
And now, 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 breath was short, shallow, scary. Days 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, “just give it 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.
Diana Creel Elarde is a writer and a business consultant. She recently published her first book, A Star in My Hand. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.