I recall as a child wondering what I should get my Dad for Father’s Day? And the things I remember getting him seem so small and even a bit tacky now. World’s Greatest Dad coffee mug, a funny card, a key ring – you know the drill. As I got older the presents increased in quality and cost.
As a teen my Dad and I only sort of got along. He had developed ongoing medical problems and his response as I remember was to be a edgy and short tempered. The world had delivered an unexpected blow to him and his nuclear family constantly tried to protect him from his desire to prove he was still strong and capable. No wonder he was short-tempered with us. We didn’t hear what his actions were saying.
After I moved out of the house to attend seminary he began to write me letters (midnight specials I called them) usually written when he could not sleep in the wee morning hours. Not earth shattering letters or publishable compendiums of wise sayings He wrote about his life and mine, about his frustrations at work (he was in a profession he never enjoyed), and what was going on in the neighborhood and household. I spent the next decade in the Albany, NY area.
In August 1980 I moved to Toronto, Canada to a job I was sure would be a career changer for me (it was but not as I expected). In September Dad told me hewas not feeling well. In October he called to let me know he was going to have exploratory surgery. I waited with my sister and my mother in the surgical waiting room. And far too quickly we were called into the consultation room with the surgeon. And were told Dad had an aggressive form of cancer in his abdomen that was inoperable.
I was able to go into Buffalo most weekends to help care for him. He told me that he had worried about what he would do in retirement (he was 65 that November) but figured he could stop worrying about it. He dealt and coped with his worsening condition as best he could. As he got weaker. I had to help him with an improvised device so he could stand in the shower. (He wasn’t going to sit down in the shower! Until a week or so later he had no other choice.)
In early December we all talked about it made the decision to get him into Hospice Care and the paper work was reluctantly submitted by his physician. I drove home to Toronto Sunday night. The next day I received a call that Dad had died in the early morning hours.
I learned to get used to the idea my Dad had died, and accepted that as the fact of that matter. I noted when I turned 66 that I had outlived Dad and wondered what his retirement might have been like. And whether he might have lived longer if he had chosen a different career or changed careers mid-life.
In December 2020 it will be 40 years since his death. And today there is a lump in my throat. After all this time I still miss him. I still tell some of his jokes (and in memory hear my mother scold him for telling a few of them with her terse “Hilly!”)
I no longer worry about what I did or did not give him on Father’s Day. I came to realized that the gifts themselves did not matter to him. How can I be sure? Because in the case on the dresser where I keep cuff links, crosses, and clerical collars at the bottom is a 3 inch piece of blue felt with the letters DAD glued to it and a wire loop to hold keys. This was given to me in June 1989 when Christopher was 3. It then that I realized that all Dad really wanted was my love. So this is my Fathers’day gift this year.
I love you!