My dad died in December of 2017. I don’t say it to garner sympathy. I’m saying it because it happened. I’m saying it because in a weird way it helps me cope. Sometimes I say it because I know that I’m not alone.
With Father’s Day is quickly approaching, it’s a difficult time. Last year I worked at Starbucks and felt myself bombarded with merchandising that lead to me crumbling at work. This year, I work in a relatively quiet office where my two co-workers have also lost their dads, so we don’t talk about it.
But I still have to go to the store. I still see it on my calendar. It’s something I can’t avoid.
I read a quote that said “Grief is love with nowhere to go” and I can’t disagree with that sentiment. Grief is a weird thing because it will sneak up on you and have you sobbing. It’ll never be over exactly what you think it will be either. Today I was reading a menu and came across something that I know my dad would have loved and I found myself in tears.
And that’s okay.
When it came to my parentage, my birth father was never around. My mom married who I would call my dad when I was six years old. They met when I was just turning five. All things considered, I’m happy to have had a dad at all because I know so many people who are in my exact situation that had shitty step parents or never had someone fill that role at all.
I am fortunate, which is why my grief exists at all.
When my dad passed, me, my mother and my three step siblings gathered to write his obituary. My sister encouraged me because she knew I wrote, but I couldn’t do it. I gave them one line and bowed out leaving it up to them. They wanted to make it humorous. I’m not mad about it because I know everyone grieves differently.
In the moment I just couldn’t find the words that were somehow profound enough or witty enough or funny enough or anything that could truly encompass how I really feel. I don’t know if I ever will find the “right words”, but I’m going to try.
I can’t speak on dad’s life in detail before I knew him, but only through the stories he told often.
He lived in Staten Island, New York and had three older sisters. He was born with a form of macular degeneration that is so rare only a handful of people in the US have it. He couldn’t read the “E” on top of the optometrist’s chart and it landed him in the front of all his primary school classes with glasses so thick they could have doubled as a weapon. He lost most of his tunnel vision and seemed like he looked at people sideways because his peripheral vision was what he had.
Dad never lost his humor about this though. If my siblings or I acted up in our youth, he would always joke, “If you don’t want me to see what you’re doing, do it in front of me.”
This was also hilarious when dad went to find something he was looking for.
I know that Dad went to Catholic School and was apparently a smart ass in his youth as people from New York tend to be.
Apparently he was punched by a nun back in the days when that was okay. He says he deserved it, so I never questioned him on that one.
Dad said he often cut class and won drinking contests. I can’t speak to that either because he was hard working and rarely drank. He was a saint when he came into my life.
The nun punch must have worked.
Dad was also an entrepreneur before it was cool. He had a deli. He brought those skills down with him to Florida and ran a cafeteria in a state office where he met my mother over a can of grapefruit juice proving it doesn’t take huge gestures to shoot your shot.
Dad always ordered the best quality food I could have ever hoped to eat. I always say I appreciate food because I’m a Taurus, but it would be a lie.
It was because of him.
Since my parents were ten years apart in age, I also heard of Motown because of him.
That’s right. I – a biracial, black woman – found out about the Motown classics because of my white, Irish Catholic dad.
So if anyone says the American dream is dead, fuck you.
Dad loved music. He whistled like a songbird and often hummed to himself. My family loved to play that game of passing the tune from one family member to the other until it reached the original family member.
Dad had a knack for always making people comfortable and winning over just about anyone. If he didn’t win them over, I know in the very least they respected him because he was a hard working person that did what needed to be done.
He was a loving husband and the best father this girl could have possibly hoped for.
I will always feel his absence, but I take refuge knowing that while we may not be able to see him I know he’s around in his own way. In saying this, it may be just a little harder to do things without dad knowing about it.
When dad always asked if I was behaving and I said yes, he would ask, “Where’s the fun in that?”
So I’m going to make it count.
Dad, until I see you again, I may not be on my best behavior but I promise you’ll never be bored when you check in on me.
While I’m still here, I’m going to take your spirit with me and work hard, but be kind. Like you, I’ll remember the gestures of kindness, no matter how small. I’ll revel in music like you, because it fills the time so nicely.
And I swear to do something trying enough that a nun will want to punch me.
I love you and I’ll miss you always.