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|