Father’s Day isn’t as hard for me as Mother’s Day–perhaps because my father died in 2006 and I was an adult. And though I had not started to think of my 73-year-old father as “elderly” his health was failing. It had been failing for a very long time.
I often say that we don’t get over loss, but rather we learn to live with it, and it gets better, feels different over time. My mother dying when I was 13 was the hardest for me. First of all being 13 is hard for obvious reasons. And, in my family we didn’t know how to grieve and the word “therapy” was not in the family lexicon. Dad buried himself in work and he didn’t know what to do.
None of us knew what to do, how to relate to each other in this family that no longer had a center, a family whose linchpin had been removed and was spinning out of control. The centrifugal force ultimately launched us each in different directions, away from each other. We each tried to re-adjust ourselves to new roles in the family but we didn’t know who we were anymore.
When my grandma died, she was in her 80s and I was in my 30s. I had always felt so lucky to have grandparents at all since so many of my contemporaries did not. And when Granddad died (at age 94) it was hard for a lot of reasons, not the least of which that it was in the midst of my sister battling breast cancer. But grandparents dying in their 80s and 90s is the natural order of things. I still felt the loss, still miss them, but there is no anger or feeling that it is unfair… After all life expectancy in the U.S. is 76 for men, 81 for women. Both Grandma and Granddad did better than that.
And when my Dad died, in some ways it was a relief. His health, as I mentioned, was bad. And it was bad because he didn’t take care of himself. He smoked, he drank too much, his diet was filled with fried foods and few fresh vegetables, and he didn’t exercise. I harbored a secret fear that like my friend Karin, who had been caring for her mother after a debilitating stroke, my sister and I would end up taking care of him. My father also left a mess: a hoard in his condo worthy of a television show, years of unpaid taxes, years of unopened mail.
Regardless of his faults, his shortcomings, his personal struggles with–well, so many things, I loved my dad.
So this Father’s Day I’ll remember the good things. He could be silly, had a sharp wit, he was smart. And he was a great cook and lover of hot dogs.
And I miss him.