This year I experienced my first fatherless Father’s Day. June 2014 was the last Father’s Day I would get to spend with my daddy, but I wasn’t aware of it then. Despite knowing for the past five years that he was living on borrowed time, he was still pretty strong and able. I can remember that weekend vividly. We had a family reunion that same weekend and on Sunday I was sitting beside him at church. We took our Father’s Day gifts to him later that afternoon. He was such a tough person to buy for because it seemed like he had everything in the world. I often settled on gift cards to his favorite outdoor supply store because he loved to golf and hunt and I knew he could put that towards something he loved. I’m happy to say he did get to hunt once that fall and even pick up a few games of golf. Things started changing pretty quickly with him health-wise around Thanksgiving that year, and on March 31, 2015 I told him I loved him for the last time and watched him take his last breath. To say he took a piece of my heart with him that evening would be a huge understatement.
In late May I was grocery shopping and wandered down the greeting card aisle looking for a card for someone I knew. As I passed down the aisle slowly, my gaze fell on the Father’s Day cards and it stunned me for a second or two. I quickly made a beeline to the next aisle and felt a little ridiculous. It was just cards, for crying out loud. I knew deep down it would be different this year, but I wasn’t prepared for that slap of reality at the moment. A few weeks later, I realized that I would have to suck it up and put my feelings aside because I happened to be married to a great man who was an awesome father to our own son. We always get him a card with his gift and I wasn’t about to be so selfish and stuck in my own feelings that I couldn’t purchase that small token of love for him. I waited for a good day emotionally and picked out cards for my husband and congratulated myself that I was able to do that much without losing my marbles. I had this. I was going to be fine. It had been almost three months since my daddy died, but I was good.
My plans for Father’s Day weekend this year included making my husband feel special and being there for my mom in case she needed me emotionally. I knew it would be hard for her as well. I’d also picked out a lovely flower arrangement that I planned to place on my daddy’s grave that Sunday morning. I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to handle sitting in church on Father’s Day, so I didn’t make plans to attend. My husband had to leave for work that morning anyway, so we would just celebrate with him on Saturday and Sunday could be low key. I had it all figured out.
Then Saturday rolled around and I woke up feeling strange. I didn’t feel like getting out of the house or putting too much effort into anything. I threw myself into household chores most of the day and did quite well emotionally. Then I began to see the myriad of facebook tributes my friends were making to their own dads. Most still had their fathers, but many of them would be like me, without their daddy’s on Father’s Day. I found a picture of my dad and I from our last Father’s Day weekend together, so I posted it. My husband took our son swimming, so I cried and took a nap. There. I had cried. I was going to be ok.
By early Saturday evening, I felt like I was about to explode emotionally. I texted my mom to make sure she was home. I told her I was coming over and told my husband I would be back soon. The tears started flowing before I even made the 30-second car trip to her house. By the time she met me at the door, I collapsed into her arms and sobbed so hard I didn’t think I would ever stop. It was the big ugly cry, but I needed to have it. She just held me and let me cry. I may be 40 years old, but I still need my mama. I still need my daddy, too, but I can’t change that part. I finally pulled myself together after awhile and headed home. My husband could see that I had been crying, and was very understanding. I apologized to him because I felt so bad for not feeling like I was fully able to go all out for him this year on his Father’s Day. He totally understands, and I am reminded of why he is such an amazing husband. I know he misses my dad so much, too. They were pretty close.
The Big Ugly Cry left me feeling emotionally and physically exhausted, but somehow at peace. I decided to go on out to the cemetery in case Sunday was even worse, so I went out and placed my flowers for my daddy on his grave and wished him a Happy Father’s Day. I didn’t even cry, probably because I just didn’t have anymore tears in me at that point.
Sunday was fine. I busied myself with laundry. My son decided he wanted to spend the night with my mom that night, so I let him. I came home and the house was too quiet. I got on YouTube and pulled up some Jerry Lee Lewis tunes. My daddy loved Jerry Lee’s music and they were songs I remember from my earliest childhood days. I also downloaded a copy of Tarzan of the Apes, yes Tarzan!, to my Kindle and began reading it. My daddy loved Tarzan books when he was growing up and has quite the collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs books. Those little things somehow comforted me, as strange as it sounds. I don’t know why Saturday was tougher than Sunday. Maybe my anxiety of being without him on Father’s Day this year had finally gotten the better of me. I know all of our first holidays without him are going to be very hard, and I guess I wasn’t quite prepared for just exactly how hard it would be, but I got through it.