Another Father’s Day without Dad
Columns are sometimes easy, sometimes difficult to write. This is a difficult one. It’s about my father who died a few days before Thanksgiving in 2009.
After living every moment of my life knowing that I had my father with me, I no longer do. So it is my fourth Father’s Day without my dad - and many of you, I realize, know what that felt like long before I did.
Even as a writer, I come up short of words that describe the loss. Dawn, a college friend of mine, told me that when her father died she felt like the “earth shifted” around her. That was a very good description. My dear friend, Veda, reminded me at any age the loss of father is difficult. That so rang true.
My cousin said she liked what poet John Donne said, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind ... therefore send not to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” That poem still brings tears to my eyes.
At the time of his death, I received many cards, letters, flowers and personal condolences - each of them heartfelt and consoling. When your father dies you know who truly cares about you. But here’s the thing - none of it eased the pain in my heart. That would be too much to expect. I know that. But when you’re grieving for a man that never stopped nourishing you, whose essence was central to your existence, there is no consolation except what he gave you everyday - himself.
To this day, I find myself reluctantly testing the words, “My father died.” as if I will understand it better or absorb it easier if I say it out loud. Or, as if, when I tell someone that he’s gone, they will look at me and immediately reply, “No, he’s not.”
In a world of meaningless cliches that are uttered every day to every one of us - especially “Have a nice day” - there remains that one, most heartfelt “I’m sorry” that passes everyone’s lips when you tell them that your father had died.
And if they have already suffered that loss, their “I’m sorry” rings more clear, more true, more honest than any other “I’m sorry” we will hear.
My father, Gilbert, was born and raised on a farm in Iowa. He milked cows as a young boy and worked the fields when he was older with a team of horses and later with tractors and machines. When he received his “Greetings from the President” letter, he marched off to war to serve his country during World War II. Upon his return, he displeased his Lutheran parents somewhat when he chose to marry a Catholic girl from the rival neighboring town.
They had four kids and wanted all of us to go to college, so my father worked hard all his life to provide us with that opportunity. He never was one to drink with they boys in the taverns, he preferred spending his free time teaching his kids to play basketball, baseball or other life-long skills. He never traveled farther than to a handful of states in this country and said the farm was the best place to be every day of his life. He mercilessly teased his mother-in-law for not being an good cook and wondered how his wife was such a good one.
His life was hard but it was good. He had great love from his wife and family. And by that measure, he was gloriously rich.
I was a good daughter and he would agree with that today. We created and lived thousands and thousands of memories together. I gave him things he would never buy for himself and he took them with the eagerness and pleasure of a child. Although I never stopped needing him as a father, he became my best confidant. I can’t say where one role began and the other ended.
For those of us don’t have our fathers with us anymore, we can try to tell those who do there never is enough time. They think they know, but they don’t know. It’s like trying to a young person how short life is. They think they know, but they don’t know. And they won’t until time is no longer on their side.
So for those of you who still have your dad this Father’s Day, don’t miss a moment of what you can still have today but which will slip away from you some day all too soon. Talk to your dad as much as you can if you can’t see him every day. Honor him in every way possible, the best being time spent with him.
Laugh, love, cry, celebrate and, by all means, reminisce.
Happy Father’s Day to all fathers and to you, Dad.
Wanda Moeller is the publisher of The Daily Courier. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org