Saturday, June 16, 2012


I knew something was different that first November when my birthday rolled around and there was no card in the mail addressed “To my one and only daughter, xxoo, Daddy.” Then there was Thanksgiving which marked my first attempt to cook a turkey, the one he was not there to carve. And that first Christmas when I had one less gift to buy. But I don’t think it really hit me full force until the following June, that first Father’s Day when it seemed like everyone in the world but me had someone to buy a silly tie for. Up until then it felt like he was away on a trip and any moment I would hear his voice on the phone, “Hi honey. It’s me. I think your mom’s mad at me. Any idea what I did?”

I was fatherless.

It hit me like that big wave that crashes over your head just when you thought the ocean was calm. The one that throws you forward and leaves you gasping for air. Except I wasn’t on the beach with my toes sinking in the sand. I was in the card store surrounded by people who weren’t like me. People that had a father to tell funny stories you had heard a hundred times before but still made you laugh. A father whose big bear hugs made you certain that everything, no matter what, would be okay.

Up until then I had a brave face in public. I had been riding on a wave of numbness since that September day I got “the call.” The one that had me driving that familiar stretch of i-95 knowing what was on the other end, even though no one had told me he hadn’t made it.

He had died too soon. 64. An age that seems even younger now than it did then. And he had left me fatherless. To stand in that dreaded card store on that June day, surrounded by rows and rows of sentiments from jokes to proclamations of “Best Dad in the World!” feeling more alone than I ever had before.  For the first time in my adult life I didn’t have my Daddy to buy a card for.

That was when I felt it from the tears welling in my throat to the weakness in my knees. He really was gone. This was not a bad dream I was going to wake up from. I was going to celebrate Father’s Day 1987 and every Father’s Day forward with just his memory.

I kept my Ray Bans securely over my eyes and got out of that store as fast as I could.  The wound I felt was not like one of those boo boos he put a band-aid on when I was a kid, kissed it to God and promised me would be gone by the time I got married. This was the kind that time would heal, but would always leave me with a scar. The one I still feel almost 26 years later. The one that continues to have me avoiding card stores in June and hitting delete on every message that includes Father’s Day gift suggestions.

Some might call that denial. I call is survival.

I prefer to use this day to think of the joy my father brought into my life and the lives of everyone who knew him, than the pain of his loss. I like to think of his silly jokes, how he loved to dance, and that he was one of the few people I have ever met who could make any kind of real progress with the Sunday Times Crosswood Puzzle. I like to remember him as the man my mother fell in love with on a boat trip around Manhattan.

If I close my eyes today and remember the wonderful memories he left as his legacy I really will feel the warmth of one his giant hugs. The kind that still make me believe it is all going to be all right. No matter what. And I remember what it took me years to understand. I am really not fatherless. I never have been. Spirit lives on long after our physical selves leave this earth. And his spirit was so strong I can call it in whenever I sit still long enough and ask . Which is what I will be doing this Father's Day, as I avoid those card stores!

One of my personal favorites!

My brother posted this on FB. I think it captures the essence of who Dad was!


Anonymous said...

Quite possible the sweetest Father's Day message I've read in a long while. Don't cry, think of the good times!

Liane said...

You are so blessed to have those kind of memories - YES! Focus on those and cherish them always. This day always remind me of those of us who don't have those memories and wonder what it might have been like if we DID have them. I don't blame you for avoiding the card stores, but I'm glad that you're focusing on the beauty that you had. What a nice post for fathers day :)

Unknown said...

Yes, I am blessed to have such good memories. Thank you both for reading.

Rita Palanjian said...

Joanne, thanks for sharing such a heartfelt blog. This was a beautiful post. Your dad has done a fantastic job. hugs.

Unknown said...

Thank you!