In a few minutes it will be another long Dad Day. A normal Wednesday– breakfast with Jack, school for him/work for us, a morning meeting, Jack’s choir practice and dinner at church, 5th grade homework, bed… but pulsing throughout the day is a semi-conscious awareness that 19 years ago we were called back from our drive to our little apartment to the hospital where Dad was suddenly dying.
The details of that day are both stark and vague– and, for the most part, they are kept at bay with much better memories of Dad– but on this day the veil is a little thinner and they come parading with a terrible affrontery and hideously perform shadow puppets under the rest of the day’s activity.
Dad is missed on every day– so this day doesn’t make a difference other than to bring to the foreground the realization of how much time has passed since we’ve heard his braying laugh or joyful singing or even the illogic of his terrible temper. It’s still unfathomable to me that he never held Jack or saw my nieces grow up into the lovely young woman that they are– but only knew them as babies.
The grief now– almost twenty years later– comes when I hear one of the kids at the university complain about their parents. Worse is overhearing the confessions that come to the professor next door– just this week a girl dully related that her father was non-existent in her life. His alcoholism had ruined her childhood and she’d long grown out of wishing that he was a dad. Her voice carried into my adjacent office and I was sad that I’d been so wealthy and she’d been so poor in the same area.
I’m missing the Sister who has taken herself on a vacation this week. We usually meet up on Dad day and only briefly acknowledge it. A long-established pattern not out of stoicism but out of the need to be more like our father in the way we (first) raised up her girls and now Jack. We are proud when we are privy to some tale of Dad’s legendary generosity. We soak up the stories now– because it is rarer and rarer that we are recognized as “Bruce’s girls”… so many of the people we’ve added to our circles came after we buried Dad. I forget sometimes how few people there still are (that we see regularly) that know me as one of his daughters. Only a handful of people at church. Just a few at work. One or two at Jack’s school.
Oldest friend, Melle, reached out on Sunday with a long text about feeling as though Dad were right there with her in the church they were visiting. Hearing him sing (“belt out”) during a favorite hymn. He’s visited her a few times in strong sensation or dreams– always when I am most missing him. Melle is practical– the Diana to my Anne– so I never question his visits to her. I was probably jealous in the beginning that he would show up so vividly in her dreams– when she’s not even a dreamer– until I realized how much lovelier it was to be given this gift from her now and then. Never expected. But always welcomed.