Father’s Day Without Dad

Originally published June 2010.

As a child, I remember Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as big events every time they rolled around. Not only were we given school projects to bring home in recognition of our parents, but within my family, the opposite parent (Dad on Mother’s Day, Mom on Father’s Day) would bring my sisters and me on a shopping excursion to find the perfect gift.

We would spend that Sunday together, usually going to church in the morning, and having a family lunch or dinner. We’d take care of the chores and let Mom or Dad rest. We’d give a gift from all three daughters, and then Mom or Dad would “ooooh” and “aaah” over the cards we stamped with our hand prints, or the clay pots we pinched together and painted in art class. I was pleased with myself for  showing my love and appreciation through these gifts – I wanted my parents to know how much I cared about them. But part of me always had a problem with these days…

Of course I was willing to show my parents my love and appreciation, but one day when my dad brought me Mother’s Day shopping for my mom, I asked a question that had been on my mind… “Dad, why is there a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day, but no Kid’s Day?”

I don’t know what kind of answer I was expecting – perhaps I hoped he would contact Hallmark and insist that they market the idea of this new holiday – or at least add it to our family calendar. I found myself disappointed with his answer: “Sweetie, every day is Kid’s day!” I was unconvinced. Surely every day was not kid’s day. I still had to make my bed every morning, try not to fight with my sisters, and help clear the dinner table every night. I wanted my day of recognition, when I didn’t have to do anything that required effort on my part. On a real Kid’s Day, I should have no responsibilities aside from eating great food and opening presents.

That conversation happened about 15 years ago, and I’m sure I argued the topic into the ground. “No, Dad – every day is not Kid’s Day. No, Dad – you don’t always wait on me hand and foot. No, Dad – I don’t get to skip out on any of my chores. And NO, Dad – you don’t come home with a present for me every day of the week!”

In my 9 year old mind, my point had been proven: not every day is Kid’s Day. But now, years later, my dad is no longer here, and my perspective has shifted.

As an adult, I am now able to appreciate so much more the things that my dad did for me as a child that I was simply too young to recognize at the time. I think about the long hours that he worked as a professor and a physical therapist – providing for our family in a way that no one ever provided for him. I think about the times he would bring home flowers, or stuffed animals, or cards, and when we asked why he would smile and say, “Just because.” I think of the times he resisted the urge to yell at me when I did something wrong, but instead sat me down and asked me to talk with him about a better way I could handle a tough situation. I think of the encouraging words he’d speak when I was being hard on myself. I think of overhearing him talk to friends about how proud he was of me and my sisters. I think of how much he meant it.

To my dad, every day was about his kids. Every action he took, every decision he made, even before we were born, was ultimately about us. He overcame obstacles so his children could have a good life. He made family time a priority so he could instill meaningful values in our young hearts and minds. He showed us unconditional love so we would learn how to show that to others. He made sacrifices so that we wouldn’t have to. He stood up for us even when we were wrong.

Yes, Dad – in your world, every day was Kid’s Day.

I will miss my dad on Father’s Day – I miss him every day. This holiday marks an opportunity for many to celebrate their fathers who are still living, and for those of us who are not in that situation, their absence certainly causes a sting.

But the truth is, this day is still an opportunity for those of us who will spend it physically separated from our dads. While I do wish I could spend time with my dad and give him something for Father’s Day in the traditional sense of the word, I’ve come to realize that I can give him something even more meaningful in the way I live my life.

This Father’s Day, I will spend time with my family, I will think about my dad, and I will honor and appreciate father figures who have stepped into my life since my dad’s been gone. But ultimately, I aspire to carry on my dad’s legacy by making choices that will pave the way for my children – and when the day comes, I will love them the way my dad loved me.

9 Comments:

  1. Alison said on June 12, 2010 at 8:39 am ... #

    oh my gosh Elizabeth . this brough me to tears. how beautifully written. i tell you one thing you are right , your dad was and is great , look at you and i am sure without a doubt in your case your mom has to be great too..Waht a wonderful article.

  2. Alan Silberberg said on June 14, 2010 at 10:30 am ... #

    What a lovely way to remember and honor the memory of your Dad. Holiday times have always been thorns in my otherwise even-keeled days. There were even years when I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling disjointed until it hit me: it was Mother’s day… my mom’s birthday…. the whole month of June – all dates that resonated back to her death when I was 9.

    Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Elizabeth.

  3. Kristi Silvia said on June 14, 2010 at 1:50 pm ... #

    well the month of June is always a rough one my family and i. First of all it is our wedding anniversary,on the 12, Fathers Day, AND his Birthday on the 23 of June. He would of been 32 this year. Every year gets a litter easier on the anniversary thing, but on Fathers Day and his Birhtday, we go to his nich site and put one blue rose and 3 white ones, and the girls make cards for him. We make his favorite Breakfast on Fathers Day, and on his Birthday, we BBQ Carne Asada, that was his favorite Everyday he is missed but never forgotten.

  4. Jen said on June 14, 2010 at 11:20 pm ... #

    Elizabeth, what an inspirational piece! I will in turn be sharing it with my two young sons (ages 7 and 10) as we approach the 1 year anniversary of their dad’s death by suicide. The anniversary and Father’s day represent the last of the “first” year milestones. I will be glad to have those behind us! I am thankful to all the father figures who are in my sons’ lives! Thank you for sharing!

  5. Lisa Halle said on June 15, 2010 at 7:57 am ... #

    Wow! Elizabeth, this is truly my favorite of all the articles you have written so far. It evoked so much emotion in me, and happy tears — happy tears that you have come so far in your grief and can write a piece like this and share it with the rest of us. Father’s Day was weighing heavy on my mind this morning, and Sam’s graduation preceding it, and I wondered what I could do to cope. And somehow I got the sign by stumbling across an article in Sunday’s newspaper about grief (father loss), which propelled me to the Hellogrief site, and your featured article. Great piece!

  6. Alisa said on June 19, 2010 at 11:54 pm ... #

    Wow, that is all I can think of to say! I felt like you were writing about my dad. Though mine is still here with us (in another state), he raised us the same way.
    I am having to deal with my grandchildren not having their father here anymore. It’s rough. I get so tired of trying to explain to them the best I can why daddy isn’t here. They know far more than any child should have to know at their ages. It just takes so much out of me.

  7. Danelle said on June 20, 2010 at 8:02 pm ... #

    I lost my dad last year and this being the first fathers day without him is so hard. I miss him so much and reading your story helps. I think that way about my dad sometimes and think that his spirit will live in my heart forever so I do things to remember him today and it makes me sad he isnt here but thats what it is now and I have to accept that even though I cant stop feeling sad about it and I think I agree with you except I dont have kids yet that I will live my life that way he raised me and raise my kids when I have them how he raised me.

  8. Anne Saffron said on July 24, 2010 at 3:26 am ... #

    Your Father’s day sounds a lot better then mine. You honored your father. I went to my aunt and uncles house and they made me feel small because of the school I choose to go too. They didn’t ask how I was doing on such a painful day for a fatherless daughter. I didn’t even get to visit my dad’s grave because my car was at home and my mother left me there to go out to dinner with her boyfriend.
    I don’t know if you read these comments but if you read mine in the other articles then I don’t want to repeat my story again, but I hope you continue to write these articles. They bring out so much emotion in me and sometimes I think I just need a good cry and let some of it out.

  9. Denise said on August 4, 2012 at 8:56 pm ... #

    So touched beyond words, as i was reading, I felt I could have wrote this about my Dad, whom we lost suddenly eight years ago. My Dad was my life, he was my best friend. I was daddy’s girl and loved every moment of it. He was my confidant, my free-spirited Dad, who never judged me. I was blessed to have him for 33 yrs of my life. Through his hard work and sacrifice, he provided for my two older brothers and myself, a very good life. Every summer of my life he would take us to Yosemite National Park. He taught us that there was good in all: family time, nature, fishing, camping ( too much too list). I have tried my hardest to carry on my Dad’s legacy with my two sons..of trying to carry on the love of nature and Yosemite and other important values. I try to love my sons and niece and nephew in the same loving way Dad and Mom loved us. Father’s Day is still extremley painful for me as I long too have our talks and just laugh together. I know the four of us will reunite in Heaven someday. Elizabeth, thank you for sharing this article, as I can relate to every word. I will read this for strength, when I’m sad. I know my Dad would be proud my brothers, me, Mom and especially his grandkids! As we honor his lagacy in the most simpliest ways. thanks for listening…xoxo

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