It’s Father’s Day and I’m thinking about my dad. It’s hard to believe that he died so long ago. It seems like yesterday although 24 years have passed. Back then, I was pregnant with our second child — a daughter.
I received two life-changing phone calls on that memorable day. The first was a long-distance phone call from my mother. She was crying and said, “Your dad has passed away.” My heart started pounding. I spent several hours pacing, tearfully asking myself the usual questions when a loved one dies. Why did this happen? What exactly happened? How could this possibly have happened?
Then, there was the second phone call. It was the nurse from my doctor’s office. I heard excitement in her voice. “Great news! You’re pregnant!” I felt a jumble of conflicting emotions – complete joy and utter sadness. I was overjoyed to be pregnant but unhappy that our precious baby would never meet my dad. And, our six-year-old’s journey in getting to know and love his grandpa had ended far too soon.
There would forever be a void. The grandpa-and-grandchildren fishing trips would never be. Maybe my father would have taught his grandson to golf. He had been a caddy as a boy and had a perfect golf stance and swing. Would he have called our daughter, ‘Baby?’ It was his pet name for me. Possibilities for a relationship between my father and my children had vanished.
So, it’s Father’s Day. It’s natural to reminisce about the 45 years of marriage my father and mother shared. I remember a recurring conflict between my parents — the mother-in-law issue. My mom didn’t like my dad’s mother. She pretended to get along in public but complained to my father privately. My mom also made thoughtless remarks within earshot of her kids. I’d hear her tell my dad, “Your mother wants us over for dinner on your day off! You should be spending your free time with me and the kids — not with your mother!” Or she’d say, “Your mother favors your brother over you.” Another one was, “Your mother spoils your sister’s kids and ignores ours.” The complaints went on and on, and my dad just listened. He never uttered a retaliatory word. I know it bothered him, and it bothered me. I was a little kid, torn between believing my mother’s nasty comments and trusting my own immature intuition. Did my grandmother deserve such harsh criticism? I had no evidence. She always seemed at ease, often hunched over her stove or wiping her hands on her colorful apron, while a mob of grandkids ran in and out of her house.
Long ago, I realized my mom’s behavior was wrong. For whatever reasons, jealousies or insecurities, she was absolutely wrong in harping about her mother-in-law. It was toxic to our family and hurtful to my dad. He was a good husband and a patient and loving father. He was a good son. My father didn’t deserve the mother-in-law drama that his wife stirred up.
My mother passed away a few months ago. I am saddened, on this Father’s Day, that she missed an opportunity to make my dad happy by accepting his mother. She missed an opportunity for herself as well. Compassion and communication can heal relationships and misunderstandings. For my parents, there is no going back — no second chances. No more Father’s Days. No more Father’s Day gifts. For the rest of us, there is hope. The possibilities are endless. We are always a work in progress.
Today is Father’s Day, and I’m remembering my father. Love you, Daddy.