Dad’s not here.
It’s Father’s Day and this is the first one where he will not be in attendance. I’ve been thinking about him a lot because I’ve been seeing things in the stores that I would ordinarily buy and send off to him. But, not this year.
My father and I did not have a close relationship. He was very uncomfortable in speaking with me, so he typically said, when answering the phone to my call, “Here’s your mother.” We once had a fight about that, and as a result he tried to chat for a bit before turning the phone over but it was a conversation that came wrapped in discomfort and artificiality. I came to wish the fight had never happened and that the idea of ‘trying’ to talk with someone makes whatever said nonsense.
I visited a few times over his last months and the last time I was there, we both knew it was the last time. Joe and I visited in the early afternoon when no one else was there and I noted a subtle change in the room and with my dad. There was an intimacy and a desire for intimacy. It started with Dad telling us some stories from the war. Turns out my dad was one hell of a story teller. He was funny and had the gift of knowing when to pause and when to deliver a line. We laughed, loudly, listening to him. He was enjoying himself. There was no ‘trying.’
When the moment was right, I decided to let go of this wrapped up thing I’d held in my heart for a very long time. There was something I wanted to say to him, something I wanted to thank him for, but it was so personal that I thought that I’d never get to say it. But I did. It took him by surprise, thinking, probably, that I only held anger in my heart with no room for gratitude at all. Then he said that he was pleased because I’d landed right. I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to do and living with the man I was supposed to be living with. He called me lucky.
I don’t know when he came to that realization, I don’t know if it was the hours in the hospital that gave him time to think or if he’d been carrying that too. In the end, it doesn’t matter.
What mattered was that I came to peace with my father.
When we left and said goodbye, we knew we’d talk on the phone, but we knew that we’d not see each other again. But while we were both aware that there had been a thousand and seven missed opportunities, we had come to peace.
And, in the end, that was enough.