Why I Want to Hate Fathers’ Day, But Can’t

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Let me just state the obvious – as a widow and a mother, Fathers’ Day kinda sucks.

I know certain days are going to be difficult: funerals, weddings, our anniversary. As painful as they may be, I can usually find a way to endure. But while I am no longer a wife, I am and will always be a mother. Many life events can trigger some type of distress, but the third Sunday in June is an entirely different ballgame. Fathers’ Day takes my sons’ loss and ruthlessly thrusts it into the limelight. Worst of all, there is little, if anything, I can do about it.

Not that I haven’t tried. I have spent countless hours trying to fill the void. But my attempts are largely in vain. My persistence is futile. I’m trying to plug a deep, rectangular chasm with a small, round ball. Sure, it may seal it for a moment, but it’s not a perfect fit. It settles and slips, leaving gaps and exposing cavities.

I blame my late husband.
He didn’t make it easy on me. Not by a long shot.

Matt was not the perfect father, but he gave it one good try. From the get go, he was intricately involved in our boys’ upbringing, especially after he got sick. When they were infants, he requested to take the midnight feeding so he could have some bonding time (and I could get some extra sleep.) He coached every sport they participated in from the age of three. On Fathers’ Day, he bought them presents.

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A typical Fathers’ Day haul

Later, Matt initiated what he dubbed “Daddy Breakfasts.” Just the tree of them would go out about once a month. The date wasn’t announced ahead of time; it was spur of the moment. I was invited, but inevitably declined. (What mother of two young boys would pass up a quiet morning all to herself?) During their meal, they would talk about whatever was one their minds. It was a safe zone where nothing was off limits. Their father’s wisdom seasoned the conversation and his comfort was the dessert. What they discussed was never disclosed to me, but they always brought me back a treat.

Leukemia may have stripped away Matt’s vitality, but it never robbed him of his spirit. He spent every hour of his last seven years in some degree of pain, but each morning he would wake thankful to have “another day above ground.” Our sons were ages six and eight when he received his initial diagnosis. My greatest heartache is that they have few memories of him well. Doctors appointments, treatments, and fatigue governed everyday life. Our sons don’t remember life without these overbearing dictators. But even as cancer therapies and their side effects corroded his physique, his exuberance for life – for us – remained and flourished.

After Matt was gone, I daydreamed that some man or men would come alongside my sons to mentor them. Like a beloved tear-jerker, a gentleman – perhaps an uncle, neighbor, teacher, or coach – would recognize the “missing piece” in their life and do his best to compensate. Whatever crisis that might been looming would be adverted, their souls would be soothed and the credits would roll. In reality, a few men made attempts, but only for a short time. These were temporary positions. No one developed into a lifelong father-figure for either one of them. I never was a fan of Lifetime movies anyway.

And now we are back to Fathers’ Day and how to handle the occasion. We can’t ignore it if we tried, so we muddle through. I’ve thought about purchasing presents for my sons, but it feels off – like I’m adding fuel to their continual smolder of loss. I reject the common single mother’s mantra of being both a father and a mother. They had a father – a damn good one – I could never take his place.

This year, circumstances have made it so we will be celebrating with their grandfather a week later, leaving us alone on the ominous day. I’ve decided our usual tactic of avoidance is not doing us any good – I need to do something about it. Ignoring the day would be discounting the impact he had on our lives; erasing his place in our hearts. So, I’m going to seize the day to honor Matt. Perhaps we will go to a movie that he would have enjoyed or maybe head to the beach. Sure, we will ache for him, but it will be a good, sentimental workout for all three of us. We need to exercise our emotions before they atrophy. We need to enjoy Fathers’ Day again.

 

 

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To My Sons: Lessons on Manhood I Learned From Your Father

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Dear Boys,

BE A STUD — Eat and breathe whatever you are involved in. Study it. Practice it. Focus.

BE A MAN’S MAN—Have a real friend, not an occasional drinking buddy. Cultivate a colleague and confidante.

DON’T SHY AWAY FROM WOMANLY MATTERS—Sometimes your wife or girlfriend might need you to pick up a box of tampons. Don’t freak out. Menstruation is not contagious.

START A FOOD FIGHT—Embrace the silly side of life.

DANCE—Nothing is more romantic.

MARRIAGE ISN’T ALWAYS 50/50—Like a see-saw, the amount of give-and-take fluctuates.

GET INVOLVED—You have no right to criticize if you don’t contribute.

NO WHINING ALLOWED—Don’t let your troubles be your definition.

MODESTY IS OVERRATED—Some of our best conversations were during your father’s “morning constitutional.”

BE A HERO—Allow someone to look up to you. Earn that adoration.

BE COMMITTED—Buckle up and tough it out. There’s joy in the roller coaster and pride at the finish.

APPRECIATE IMPERFECTIONS—Don’t let someone’s faults (or your own) become a catalyst for conceit.

BE A LEADER—Establish your own character. Don’t follow indiscriminately.

BE HUMBLE—Boasting is not masculine. Save your hot air for balloons.

PAY IT FORWARD—Blessings are communal.

FAMILY FIRST—Never, ever let them doubt who is most important.

HAVE FAITH—God rules.

EMBRACE ALL GENERATIONS—Nine-years-old or Ninety-years-old, everyone has wisdom.

ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE VULNERABLE—You won’t always know the answers. It’s OK.

HAVE INTEGRITY—A man is his reputation.

LOOSEN UP—Not everything will go as planned.

BE COURAGEOUS—Your family and friends will draw strength from you.

LAUGH—Even in the direst of situations, there is humor to be found.

LOVE—Let it be your compass.

LIVE—It’s the finest way to honor your dad.

Love,
Mom


Originally published on Medium.com