Father’s Day Without My Dad

My dad did not like attention on holidays like his birthday or Father’s Day. He preferred to do things for other people, and not necessarily on holidays.

For the past few years, other than feeling a little displaced and lonely without a plan to spend time with my dad, the holiday did not really bring me down. This year, however, I’m feeling very sad, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because despite his own attitude, which I tried to embrace, I do miss him on this day, and fighting my own feelings amplifies the sadness. Maybe I’m feeling the sadness more this year because after he died I was caught up with caregiving for Ben, and then with his loss, too, so I went through motions without really focusing on the event. Sometimes, it simply- or not so simply- upsets me that the people I was closest to are not here anymore.  I do believe that they are always with me, and watching over me, and that is a comfort. But, there are those times that I just want to pick up the phone, or feel a touch. My dad and I spoke several times a day. I miss that. And it still hurts, three years later.

I don’t fight the grief, but I also do not want to dwell in it. I just keep swimming. I let myself feel. I understand the grief and its unpredictability. It helps me to summon the loving and good memories because I never lose sight of how fortunate I am to have them.

I always visited with my dad on Father’s Day. I brought his favorite foods from Zabar’s, documentaries that Ben would make on DVD for him, and books because he loved to read. Usually, the books were about WW2, but sometimes they were humorous books, particularly Jewish humor. I loved his giggle as he would read me the jokes. As he became more ill, I read aloud from some books and we watched movies together. On the night he died, there was a television broadcast of “Mrs. Miniver,” one of his very favorite films, which has become one of mine, especially because of memories of watching it with Daddy. It seems to be on television every year around the anniversary of his passing. It feels like a sign that my dad is with me. I have the DVD of the movie and I watch it when I want to feel close to him, so I will watch it this evening. And then, I will probably watch “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” another movie we joked about, and “Tootsie,” because it is my favorite cheer up movie and one that also made him laugh so hard that he quoted it frequently. I guess movies are very emotional for me. I have to admit that my dad did not like animated films and he never really understood my love of the Disney films, though he did have a healthy respect for Mickey and Minnie and their friends, and he loved to watch the videos I showed him of Ben and me at Walt Disney World because he said he loved to see us so happy and to hear me laughing.

I’ve been looking through old photographs because I do take great comfort in that, despite some tears. It’s hard to find photos of my dad and me together because he was usually the one taking the photos. He loved capturing silly and sweet moments, often with our dogs. When I look at some of photos that he took, I know exactly what he was thinking, or what joke or prank he had in mind, and that, in itself, is a joy.

So hard to get him to pose seriously!

Today, I will try to remember that Daddy never wanted me to be sad. I cannot count the number of people who stopped me to tell me that I was my dad’s world. And, since he was quite a character, a lot of nurses blessed me for my patience, which always made me laugh. He would be humbled that I remember him, which is so odd to me, because he is always with me and is so much of who I am.

Camera on his shoulder, Daddy always wanted to be the photographer, not the photographed!

Thank you, Daddy, for the lessons you taught me, the laughs and sense of humor you shared, the moral compass and patriotism you instilled in me, and the unconditional love and generosity you showed me.

I love you and miss you, on Father’s Day and every day!

My dad, in one of his favorite photos, with our Miniature Schnauzer, Windy, at my Cornell graduation. Daddy liked to look serious, but he was quite the joker.