I am not sad today, though you might expect me to be. My father died when I was ten. I have now spent just about twice as much time without him in my life as I had with him. My grief has evolved over the years – it was a raw blister of anger in my youth, and gradually became a constant dull ache. Now that I am almost thirty, it resembles a toothache that flares at consistent, inconvenient times. I almost always need to excuse myself during the father-daughter dance at weddings. When I recently overheard a gap-toothed little girl happily chatting in the hair stylist’s chair about her dad taking her to a picnic, I felt something that weirdly resembled jealousy.
All in all, though, I’m a happy, well-adjusted adult who is now able to walk down the greeting card aisle around Father’s Day without dissolving into tears. Time has changed Father’s Day into something different: I am always aware of what I lost, but now I can find joy in things that were not there before. My older brother, who used to practice his World Wrestling Federation moves on me while our parents weren’t home, has turned into a fantastic father of three amazing girls. Watching my husband hold our friends’ babies and attempt to rationally interact with 3-year-olds fills me with happy anticipation for when we start a family of our own.
I had a wonderful childhood, and just about every memory of my father is a happy one. I am very, very lucky in that regard. However, I often catch myself wondering how my life would be if my father were still around. I think he and my husband would have gotten along famously, as they have a lot in common (number one on that list being they both were/are fond of spoiling me rotten). I wonder how he and I would have related to each other as adults. My relationship with my mother has become a true friendship as well over the years, and I can now drop the occasional F-bomb in front of her without fear of being grounded.
I only knew my father as Dad – not a friend or a coworker. People who tell me stories about him say that he was the funniest person they knew. My parents met at work, and Mom said that there were always a crowd of people in his office, laughing hysterically – that’s what initially got her attention. While going through a box of old papers recently, Mom found a memo my father had written in 1974:
Suddenly, the mystery of where my sarcastic streak came from was solved.
This nearly 40-year old memo, written long before I was born, brings me an inordinate amount of joy. It makes me feel a little closer to a man whose voice I can no longer remember, but whom I can picture clear as day when I close my eyes.
I am not sad today, though you might expect me to be. Just a little wistful.