Friday, June 1, 2018

Father's Day

Father's Day is coming up in a few weeks. I have been looking at the date on the calendar and trying to prepare myself for the surge of grief that will inevitably make its way to the surface. I thought I had a few more weeks to get ready, but I forgot to account for the retail buzz leading up to Father's Day. Last week, I found myself walking through Target completely ill-equipped to handle the displays of cards, argyle socks and golf-related accessories at the end of every aisle. I really wanted to buy those argyle socks for my Dad, along with a blue striped polo shirt (his favorite color) and a bag of trail mix.

Father's Day has always been a fun holiday because it is one of the few times that my Dad could truly be the center of attention. Years ago, I used to host Father's Day parties in my backyard, with a giant deli tray, bags of chips and all of my Dad's favorite snacks. Then I would get a bunch of different ice cream treats and everyone could pick what they wanted. My Dad loved the toasted almond bars from Good Humor so I always had some of those on hand.

Over the years, we shifted away from my party and moved on to other locations. Last year, we celebrated at my brother's house. We usually have the party on the Saturday before Father's Day because my niece's ballet recital always seems to fall on that Sunday. Then on Sunday after the recital, my Dad and I would always watch the end of the U.S. Open golf tournament.

Last year, my Dad was pretty weak and we had to bring him to the recital in a wheelchair. Even though we didn't acknowledge it at the time, I think we all knew that it could be our last Father's Day with my Dad. I was working on a big project for one of my clients and I had planned to come back to my house and get back to work after the recital. But as I was driving in my car, I had this feeling that I should go and see my Dad instead.

Even though we had all just seen my Dad at the recital, I couldn't force myself to go back to work. I was on a deadline, but I knew where my heart wanted to be. So I drove back to my parent's house and I offered to bring my Mom and Dad some dinner from the coney island. He and I both had a grilled cheese and fries. We sat at the dining room table and just watched the golf tournament like we always did, adding comments here and there in between bites of our french fries.

In those last few months, my Dad was quiet a lot of the time. Quieter than usual. I think he was tired and sometimes his brain just didn't work the way it was supposed to. Maybe he was internally preparing for what was going to happen next. He didn't talk about it a lot, and whenever I asked him if he was worried or scared he would just say "whatever is going to happen, will happen." I think he probably knew before the rest of us did, at least on some level.

As I look back on that day, I realize the profound importance of that one simple decision. I followed my heart and it did not steer me wrong. That was indeed the last Father's Day that I would spend with my Dad. And we spent it like we always did. Hanging out watching golf, eating snacks and talking, although not about anything in particular. I am so happy that I drove over there to be with my Dad that day. I am so grateful that he knew how much I loved him and that being close to him in those last weeks and months was the most important priority in my life.

It has been almost a year since we lost my Dad. And this is the last holiday that I will be able to look back on and say "last year, my Dad and I did this..." Soon, I will be in a new era, where the last year will be the first year of going through each holiday without my Dad. I am not ready for that yet, although when the time comes, I guess I will have to be. Having a memory of him that is less than one year old makes me feel like he is still close by. As each holiday or event approaches, I can at least find comfort in the memory of him from the year before.

Grief is a different emotion than anything else I have experienced in my life. I am not sure I can really even call it an emotion. It is more of a state of being. And it can include a whole range of emotions. The first few months after my Dad passed away, I spent a lot of time trying to talk to him or seek him out. Now I find that, when the time is right, he comes to me.

A few weeks ago I was driving in my car from Michigan to Ohio. I looked up at the sun and the clouds in the sky and I felt my Dad's presence. So I said "Hi, Dad." Then I felt a strong urge to turn on the radio. Sometimes I like to listen to the 1950's station on my satellite radio to hear some of my Dad's music. When I turned on the radio, it was playing 'Chances Are' by Johnny Mathis, which is one of my Dad's favorite songs and it was also my parent's wedding song. I have turned on that station so many times to see if I could hear one of my Dad's songs and that day, it was right there. I truly believe that it was my Dad's way of letting me know that he was with me.

It's impossible to put into words how difficult it is to lose a person who I loved so deeply. My Dad was one of the kindest and most gentle souls I have ever known. I think about him all the time, and every time I have to smile because I know how lucky I was to have him as my Dad. As I continue to grieve this loss, I am beginning to accept that grief is not something you move through. It is something that moves along with you throughout your life. I will always miss my Dad. I will always feel grief over this huge loss, even if my grief changes and shifts over time.

This year, my niece's ballet recital is on the Saturday of Father's Day weekend, so I will be in Michigan visiting my family. On Father's Day, I am planning to do a little project in my front yard. My grass is in pretty bad shape, so I am going to reseed it and try to get it to grow back in. Even though my Dad wasn't much into home improvement projects, he always enjoyed cutting the grass in his shorts and a t-shirt. Afterwords, he would sit out on the back patio and drink a cold beer.

This year, I'm going to plant some grass for my Dad. And hopefully next year on Father's Day I will be able to sit outside and look at my lush green lawn and think of him.

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