June 15, 2014
Yes, it’s been awhile…and I admittedly have fallen on and off the proverbial wagon in terms of food and exercise multiple times in the past few months. But instead, I have been reading a lot, processing my feelings about my dad’s death, and probably overthinking a little bit 🙂 I don’t know if I’m “back”, but I do know I need to say this:
I don’t want to care about Father’s Day. I didn’t care about it immensely when I had a dad, so the idea of making it more important since he is gone seemed contrived. Of course we would celebrate by going out to dinner or just spending time together as a family. But for some reason it never seemed to fit. When shopping for father’s day cards or gifts, I always rolled my eyes at the cards with references to tools or sports or golf. If there was a card about the best traffic routes, I would have struck gold. Slap that on a box full of socks, and that’s as good as it got. How could it be that my dad fulfilled his American dream coming to the country in 1969, but he never fit the idea of the Hallmark American man? That disconnect always bothered me, but I never spoke of it because…well…it just wasn’t fitting. I usually settled for a card with a shirt, tie, and a funny joke. Nothing too emotional.
It took me over a year after my dad died to truly bawl my eyes out about losing him. But what is incredible to me is that I am most sad about the man I didn’t know. I saw the type of husband and father he was through my own lens, but I never really knew what he was like before I was born, how him and my mom experienced each other when I wasn’t around, or his inner thoughts about having children. I could never grasp how he truly FELT. But he DID a lot, and that’s how I felt his love. I don’t even know or think he realized it, but his loving roots were clear.
This isn’t a plea to others to get to know their dad better, say how they really feel more frequently, or delve into the psychological underpinnings of their father-child relationship. Honestly, while I do wish I knew him better, I am not upset that I didn’t because that’s just how things were. How can I wish that I did something when the circumstances at that time didn’t bring about that call to action? I have spent plenty of my life being upset with myself for a myriad of reasons, but I don’t blame myself for this. Doing so would undermine my identity in my past, and I don’t have the capacity for that level of self-hate. And now, I am who and how I am because of his death. Because I can now better understand how our relationship served me as an individual and what his everyday habits, movements, frequent sayings, and frequent naps meant for my family. Patterns of individuals are so pervasive, but not only for them. They manifest and meld into our own habits of communication, expectations, judgments, and hopes.
He was a pretty simple guy, but that included being emotionally closed off and extremely routined. But I won’t ever forget how he used to sleep next to my captain’s bed sitting up all night when I would scream from a dream, how he militantly taught me to ride a bike by following an infinity shaped chalked line on the pavement in our backyard, and watching him systematically making his chutney sandwiches for the week at the kitchen table while my brother and I did the same. It really pissed me off that he “showed” me how to write legibly after I got an “N” for “Needs Improvement” for my handwriting in grade school when his everyday handwriting was horrific. My fear of him threatening to send me to community college after getting a C during my first quarter at a top-tier school trumped my embarrassment in high school after he said there was to be no “hanky panky” when I went to the movies with a bunch of girlfriends and ONE boy. But his patience waiting in jewelry stores and fabric stores for my mom was admirable. His quirkiness for being debilitatingly uncomfortable wearing a shirt without a collar was adorable. He was an engineer, a son, husband, father, and a man who fit no mold.
So, I am writing this for Father’s Day because I figured it was time to be honest about it and him and me. The way I miss my dad is even surprising to me, and I never thought the range of emotions I have experienced were even possible. I will continue to bawl, reminisce, and wonder until I stop. The best part is I finally realized that it might never stop, and that’s perfectly OK with me.