Marking another year without him

With Father’s Day having just passed, I’m sometimes annoyed by these Hallmark-type occasions that have us pulling out our wallets because the calendar says we should for planning outings in the name of a certain day.
Other times I like that we are reminded to think of others; to remember that one day is set aside to pause and honour.
I, however, never need a reminder to remember my father. Not a single day goes by without some thought of him, some memory, a longing, a wish that he was still here.
This year, I have lived twice as long without my father than with him. For 38 years I’ve been straining to keep the sound of his voice in my head, the feeling of my hand slipping completely inside his, and all the magic that was my father.
Thirty-eight years of wishing I could ask him those important questions that I didn’t know I would have. Thirty-eight years of wishing I could just tell him one more time how very lucky I was to be his daughter—how the fates had lined things up perfectly for me to be one of his very own.
Life is what it is. Death happens. People change. Life moves forward without our permission. For many years, I felt like life went on without me; that while I had my arms outstretched toward a memory, I missed the bus, got left at the side of the road.
And I’m not so sure I didn’t want it that way. I had the attitude that if I couldn’t go forward with my father, then I didn’t want to go, as if I could freeze time and I wouldn’t have to live one single day without him.
What foolishness that was.
I was walking today. I love to walk. It’s like I can walk right out of any problem, walk away from the blues, just walk. And my dad walks with me. Always.
I imagine conversations, his answers to my many queries, his take on my opinions and observations. He’d remove his glasses and scratch his chin, run his pointer finger of his right hand around the edge of his ear as if the answer was hiding there and he had to wiggle it free.
He’d tilt his head slightly to the right if he wasn’t sure or if he had to be a little tough, a little direct.
He’d wince slightly as if he really wanted to say, “Don’t be disappointed but. . . .”
I often measure my parenting up against his and I always come up short. He taught me everything, from how to cut drywall to how to string an electric fence.
He taught me how to shuffle cards and waited patiently while I pressed the cards against my chest to get them in just the right position so they wouldn’t fling all over the room. And when they did fling all over the room, he helped me pick them up and told me to try again.
“Your little hands will grow and it will get easier,” he said.
He was right. I’m a really good card shuffler now.
The thing about dying young is the person then is encapsulated in a shroud of perfection, which an individual may not have earned, didn’t have time to earn, is impossible to earn. Except in my father’s case, without a doubt, he was—and is—perfect.
He could make everything better with his wonderful smile. His large hands could fix any problem and protect me from just about every foe. He had the most amazing heart, which in the end, let him down, just wouldn’t beat the way it was supposed to; stopped beating long before it was really time.
So when I walked today, I was glad he was there—could feel him making my step a little lighter, making me turn my head to see the amazing view on such a perfect day, making me whistle a cheery tune, just the way he did.
And so I will continue to miss him, as all of us do who have lost fathers, and maybe miss him more on Father’s Day.
But most likely that’s just not possible.
wendistewart@live.ca

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