Been thinking about Father’s Day or Fathers’ Day (more on this later) as I sometimes like to think of it. Grand old Jack, all 41 of 41 going on 25 is going to be out of town for Father’s Day. In 41 years I have missed celebrating Father’s Day with my dad just once.
It was six years ago- the year that he had his heart attack, triple bypass and all sorts of other fun in a New Jersey hospital. Six years ago I celebrated the day with my immediate family, some of my sisters and three grandparents.
I remember looking around the room. The dark haired beauty wouldn’t decide to announce her presence to the world for six more weeks, Little Jack really was little and my grandfathers were asking for more details about my dad’s condition.
If you asked me if I spoke with my father that day I would say that I did, but I couldn’t tell you what we spoke of or about. Can’t say whether I said “I love you dad” or something similar. No doubt I told him to keep focusing on getting healthy. He and mom were planning on coming home before the baby was going to be born.
It would be at least a week or two before they would find out that he couldn’t make it home, that he needed a triple bypass. But that Father’s Day I would sit with my grandfather and hear him tell me that he intended to go get his son and bring him home.
I would listen and think about what it meant to be a father, a son and a grandson. I would look at my grandfather, almost 92 and wonder how best to respond. He wasn’t in any shape to go cross country to get my father. It would break my heart to see the pain in his eyes and not know how to fix it.
Because I didn’t lie to him. Didn’t lie and tell him that everything was going to be alright. The first time around I sort of did. Because when I got the call that my father had taken ill and that I needed to get there as soon as possible I wasn’t sure what to say.
I moved quickly because the docs weren’t sure if he was going to make it. Some of you have read about this more than once, but that is because of the impact it had on me. Sitting on a plane for hours without access to a phone/email is hard. It is probably going to become a thing of the past, but six years ago it was far too real.
Hours of flight passed before we landed and I was able to reach the hospital and confirm that he was still there. I remember sitting on the plane willing him to live. I remember sitting in my seat thinking that I was sending him part of me to protect him. I won’t lie and say that I wasn’t scared, because I was.
But a few months later when his condition had improved I was ready to tell my grandfather that it had been very close. He had guessed as much, but he never asked. I think that it was easier for us to maintain the fiction. It wasn’t like he didn’t know, but since he didn’t ask I didn’t have to say. I had already had the experience of telling him about the death of one son, I really didn’t want to have to do it again.
I remember staring at my son. This little boy who knew that mommy had a baby in her tummy, but didn’t quite understand what that meant for him. This little boy who each day was teaching me what it meant to be a father was so very excited to give me a gift for Father’s Day.
He climbed into my lap and hugged me. I stared into his eyes and tried to see what it was that he saw. To him I was superman, capable of anything. All powerful and invincible I would help him build towers and defeat the mysterious enemies who might show up at any time. We were quite the team.
At some point in time I ended up on all fours and he climbed on my back and I found myself fighting back tears. There is a picture of dad and I doing the same thing. But I did what I do, I fought back the tears, stuffed them down and made myself hard. Because I couldn’t afford to let go- too many people relied upon me. Too many people expected me to be their rock.
Later on I would speak with someone special about it all. Later on I would share the fear and worry, but that was not the time.
But enough about the past because now we are in the present and heading off to the future. Because this year I am going to miss celebrating in person with dad. This year the family and some of the ten thousand sisters and I will spend Father’s Day together.
And the gift that I will be most thankful for is my father. He is a good guy, my dad. I feel like I stepped out from beneath his shadow quite some time ago, but I always feel his presence. We still have our moments where we bang heads on things. I don’t think that will ever go away. When I am 130 something and he is well over 150 we’ll still have differing ideas on how to do things. He’ll still find a reason to glare at me and I’ll still ignore it.
But I’ll still remember the time when we almost lost him and the gift of being able to keep him around a little bit longer. And I’ll remember the day where he told me that he used to worry about me but didn’t have the same fear any longer.
And throughout it all I’ll try to do my best to be as good a father to my kids as he was to us.