Saturday, June 16, 2012

For My Father on Father's Day

I'm not that old, really. Only 42. But, I'm 13 years older than my dad ever was. He didn't live to see 30. This feeling that I've outlived my dad was a bit strange at first. But, now I've grown used to it like I've grown used to him not being here.

He died 36 years ago. He's been gone for more years than he was ever here. To most people, his memory has probably faded away like an old Polaroid forgotten in storage. But, to me, the few things I remember are crisp and clear. I refuse to let them go or to even let them soften around the edges.   

I don't ever remember celebrating Father's Day with him. When I was a kid in school, Father's Day was a time for my siblings and I to make cards for our grandfather. I'm sure Grandpa Doc appreciated the cards, but they were probably accepted the same way they were made - with a twinge of sadness because the crayon man with the big hands should have been drawn with brown hair, not gray. The card should have said "To Dad" not "To Grandpa".

Little kids, as we all know, have a hard time wrapping their minds around things like death. At six, I certainly didn't understand why my father, out of all fathers, was taken away. Clearly, there was something wrong with me or quite possibly, the whole family. We were tainted, somehow. We were being punished for things we must have done wrong. That's the way kids think. Nowadays, adults usually make sure kids see counselors after a trauma. In the 1970s, we had to work it out on our own.

Somehow, we did. We grew up, the way kids do, and have gone on to live our lives in decent ways.

For those that wonder about these things, the grief never really goes away. It settles down into the coals and, every once in a while, flares up again, like a flame on a windy night.

When Father's Day rolls around every year, I say a silent "Happy Father's Day" to the man that I never really knew, but who I am immensely proud of for who he was during his short time on Earth. He was a Marine. He fought in Vietnam. He was a welder. He was a husband. He was a father of four. He was a coffee drinker. He was a warm chest to sleep on during nap time. He was a giver of piggy back rides.  He was an expert snowman maker. He was my dad.

Me and My Dad, Summer 1970
PSA: My father was killed by a drunk driver in 1975. Don't drink and drive, folks. Don't text and drive. Don't be an idiot behind the wheel. The life you take might not be your own.


  1. This is such a poignant post. I am going to share it when I teach a Florida class for those who have gotten their first DUI next month and every time I teach those classes.

    Hugs and prayers for you on Father's Day,

  2. Thank you, Carol. It really means a lot that you'll share it with the DUI class.

  3. I am so sad for you and what was taken away so needlessly. Beautiful post, and quite powerful.

  4. This is the first time I have read your blog, and this post hit me right between the eyes!
    My sons were just 3 and 6 years old when their father died. I feel such guilt now that I never thought to get them any professional help. I just parented them as well as I could, and we muddled through. They are now in their 20s, and it breaks my heart to think they may think their family is tainted. I feel for them so much every Fathers Day.
    Thank you for telling us about your father.


  5. Elaine - One thing I've really come to understand as an adult and a parent is that we all simply do the best we can in any given circumstance. Don't feel guilty. I'd bet your boys are doing just fine. Perhaps they didn't feel the way I did growing up, but even if they did, it doesn't mean they weren't still also well-adjusted and happy over all. Thank you for commenting.