for me, father’s day isn’t.
every year i read the advertisements about celebrating father’s day. i see families out together, taking time to honor dads and grandpas. not me.
it has been 19 years since i lost my dad to suicide. i have lived through 19 years of fatherless days.
many people who are without their dad on this holiday choose to celebrate his memory. they visit grave sites, look at pictures, share stories about his life. not me.
on father’s day i feel mostly numb. but i also feel a faint, angry itch inside of me that i can’t scratch. i don’t celebrate. i don’t reminisce. i have tried hard not to remember. but the itch reminds me. it makes me think back.
in the years following my dad’s death i felt that he took himself out of my life. so i chose to take him out of mine. i stopped talking about him. i stopped asking about him. i stopped thinking about him. i stopped missing him. year after year, the wall that i built to keep away the pain of his suicide grew bigger and bigger. i developed numbness in all the parts of my life where my father had lived.
as humans we instinctively protect ourselves from pain and danger – it’s a valuable survival mechanism. my dad’s suicide and my finding his body were hugely traumatic, and for many years i was working so hard to protect myself from that pain by avoiding it. but now, almost 20 years later, it may be safe enough to think, to remember. to begin the process of tearing down the wall. because by walling off the pain i have become more and more fatherless over time, to the point where i feel as though i never had a father to begin with.
because that isn’t true. i did. i did have a father. his name was doug and he really, truly lived. he loved to roll down the windows in the car and crank up the music really loud. he made the best french toast. he played the trumpet. he was a michigan fan. he told me that the green soap in the car wash was slime and i believed him. he adored my mother. he was smart as hell. he had a dry wit and was always ready with the perfect one-liner. he taught me the budweiser beer theme song when i was three just to make my mom mad. he served our country in the navy and went to vietnam. he loved our family with his whole heart. and he was a great dancer – we would spin and spin and spin and spin.
so much pain, oh my god, so much pain. but so much love. so much life and so much love.
happy father’s day.