Father’s Day cards. I remember the first Father’s Day after Dad died, how relieved I was that I’d never again have to stand in the card aisle trying to figure out which card might fit him. He was never “the great guy” kind of dad. He wasn’t the “sweet guy” or the “fun guy” either. He didn’t appreciate the goofy humor or insult humor that most cards depend on. I usually settled for something about fishing; he was passionate about fishing. Until towards the end of his life, when he was too ill to go out, when the boat sat on the trailer in the yard until the tires sunk into the grass and the frame rusted. He bled khaki, but he did not appreciate or condone sentimentality about his life of service in the Army. He was a complicated, prickly man. We had a crazy and rough beginning, as daughter and father, but we found a commonality in the years before his death. I knew he loved me, and the day came when I made damn sure that he realized that I deserved his respect as much as he deserved/demanded mine. We weren’t pals. I don’t often miss him. But I wish he’d been able to meet his grandsons. I know he would have delighted in them. I feel him at my shoulder sometimes, not the mean-guy drill sergeant of my youth, but the man who told me he loved me and sent me poems he’d written, and who – amazingly enough – threw on a flowered dress in a rare and precious goofball moment (caught on film!) I think the strength that got me through Mark’s illness and death was underpinned by the strength and fortitude that Dad and Mom modeled for me throughout the years, especially those last, rough, sad years.
So, here’s to you, Dad, on Father’s Day. Happy is overrated. Thanks for buying me the coolest 10-speed bike on the planet and making me feel like a princess for an afternoon. Thanks for teaching me how to bait a hook, catch a fish, change a tire, change the oil and most of all, thanks for all the music you listened to, sang to, and whistled to. I’m still listening.