Today is my first Father’s Day without a father. I never gave him his card last year. About a month ago, the twins found it in a chair pocket in the Honda. My heart ripped open when I realized I never gave it to him. I can’t even remember if we saw him on Father’s Day. I know we saw him the week before Father’s Day for his belated birthday celebration but the trips to the doctors and the hospitalizations are all blurry in my head now. Which makes me realize I better keep writing my memories down before they start to blur as well.
My memories of my dad’s last decade and a half are better than some of the previous ones. My dad was at the hospital within hours of the birth of each of my kids. I know, because he told me, that it hurt him that he wasn’t able to do more with them. Alex is the lucky one. He has so many memories of my dad. Grandpa used to come to his baseball games whenever he could. My dad loved baseball to begin with and then to be able to watch Alex play was a dream come true for him. After one of Alex’s last tournaments I routinely dialed my dad’s number and then remembered he was dead. Eva had quite a few good years with my dad as well. His last trip to our house was for a dance recital. Two months after that his health deteriorated so much that he never traveled again.
My dad wasn’t always at Dave’s baseball games or my dance recitals. In fact it’s a pretty safe bet that he missed a lot of that stuff. I know he was trying to make up for that by going to great lengths to attend as many of my kid’s events as he could. I have to be honest though, the hurt from not having your dad around when you are a little kid doesn’t go away easily even if they try hard to make up for it after they ‘see the light.’
I remember my dad calling me when I was in college to tell me his current wife did not want me to stay at his house for my fall break. I was going to stay with a neighbor instead. I am sure I was mad but I know I was sad. My dad had a habit of marrying people who did not want children. I heard his first wife tell a friend that she hated kids – I was about 10 years old when I heard that. Dave and I got her back though. We used to sing a little jingle to her all the time – “Roto Rooter that’s our name. We’ll drive our Debi right down the drain.” Dave also threw up on her or at her …. more than once.
It wasn’t until Dad hit bottom, a bottom filled with a serious depression that I am glad I never fully understood, that he started to realize he may have done us wrong. And now we have 100’s of pages of notes that I am not yet brave enough to go through that may explain some of the hurt. In his last year, my dad started writing an autobiography and it only amounted to a page and a half. But in the first paragraph he said the sole purpose of telling his story was to try to explain some of what he had done to my brother, my aunt and to me. I hope that I am able to go through his notes, tell his story and shed some light on some of the mysteries.
But this week, accidentally coinciding with Father’s Day, we are going to bury my dad at Arlington Cemetery. I’m not sure it would be his first or even fifteenth choice for his final resting spot but we really didn’t pick it with his feelings in mind. We thought it would be a grand memorial for our children to visit as they got older. It will be a place for them to take their children and grandchildren too. Everyone visits D.C. at some point in their lives and I think it enhances my dad’s personal legacy. He loved what the Air Force did for his life and was so proud of his time in the military. My dad was very political and partisan and would not be happy to be buried anywhere near some of the more boisterous people in the party he did not support.
So as we put my dad in his final resting place, I know I will not put my memories and feelings in that same place. I’ll keep them wrapped up in my mind and close to my heart and bring them out to cherish and interpret whenever the mood strikes. But my dad has made it abundantly clear that he wants me to write and I know everything I write will have a little bit of him sprinkled all over it.