Father’s Day is coming.
I am not sure many of us whose fathers have gone ahead think of the hero of our childhood with more devotion on Father’s Day than any other day.
There simply isn’t a single day that goes by without my father in it, in memory now having lived without him for more than double the years I lived with him.
That fact alone is surprising, where on that first day in October 1974 of living without him came a certainty and an almost wish that my heart should have stopped beating when his did. But not so.
And over time the ache and anguish was replaced with comfort and joy at having spent the years with him that I did, that I lucked out having the privilege of growing up under his carefully watchful and gentle eye.
And of course, over time perhaps he became more perfect, but I’m okay with that because my child’s heart knew he was as perfect as anyone could be and I couldn’t have loved him more fiercely, more completely.
I still miss him, I still look for him when something significant happens, and I still hear him whispering encouragement when the road is bumpy.
I sometimes entertain the “what if,” the “if only” of loving someone that much. What if he sat across the table from me now, the fifty-four year-old version because he would have joined the centenarians club this November.
I would make him a cup of coffee and put it in his small white mug and listen to his spoon move the cream around, the music of it as the spoon hit the side of the mug.
He would lean on his elbows on the table and look at me over the top of his glasses.
His head would tip just slightly to the side, which softened his appearance and assured me I could ask anything of him.
What would I ask him if I could? I would be tempted to ask him what he missed the most. Was it seeing his children all safely grown and in lives that seemed to work?
Was it bearing witness to the next generation as they gasped for breath and could be held in one’s arms, their problems as of yet so small they could be contained with a hug, with a snuggle, with a whisper, with a dragging of lips across their face.
Would I ask him what moment in his life he was most proud of, hoping he would say my birth while knowing that ferrying a Liberator across the Atlantic, across northern Africa to India during World War II would have been a remarkable challenge from having left home at barely 20 years old.
Would I ask him about his dreams and were they mostly realized, farming being at the top of his list.
Or was there something yet he had ached for and knew there was no time now when his heart failed him.
I would ask him to laugh, to reseal that sound in my memory because it fades at times and I can’t quite hear his voice.
I would slip my hand in his and see if it disappeared as easily as it once did, but in that I am older than he when he died, my hand is now wrinkled and scuffed and marked.
I would ask him to play the piano or the guitar and to sing Old Black Joe or Home On The Range.
I would tell him that he taught me well, that he gave me confidence to believe in myself though it took quite some time.
I would thank him for being him, for trying his best to get it right and for allowing me to be his shadow for 19 years.
I would tell him I was blessed and I would mean it with every cell of my being.
Father’s Day is coming.