Father’s Day is upon us. On May 29th of this year, my dad would have been 105. Or IS he 105? Oh, well, he was born 105 years ago on May 29. That’s also my younger daughter’s birthday. We celebrate both of them every year. I think of my parents every day. Dad didn’t die by his own hand but he did have a 7 year protracted illness that ended in his death on April 25, 1977. He died of emphysema.
Our parents are our primary relationships. I’m sure we all have read stories of “crack” moms or “abusive” dads; we love our parents no matter who and/or what they are. The afternoon before he died, I was trying to get him to drink orange juice. I turned to my mom and said, “He promised me he’d continue to try to drink” and without opening his eyes, he responded, “No I didn’t promise.”
Later on that day, he began to call for his mom or, maybe, he saw her and was heading toward her. My grandma, his mom, died when I was 16. His own father died at the age of 56. Dad always said he hoped to make it past the age of 56. Well, that he accomplished. He was 61. Now, older than he was when he died, I realize just how young he was.
My mom attempted to take her own life 4 months after dad’s death. Her second and final “attempt”, was 2 years and 1 month later. Was his death a prime factor in her own? Yes but there were lots and lots and lots of other factors.
What is Father’s Day to those of us who no longer have a living dad? For me, it’s a brush of nostalgia that day. I think of him with love and fondness. I think of the very few struggles we had together when I was a teen. I’ve said before in this column that I get my fierce independent nature from my dad. He didn’t care that he walked a different road; to conform was nothing he ever aspired to. He was a Latin scholar in high school. I took Latin because of my admiration for his linguistic skills.
Dad rarely talked of the time he was in World War II. I know that he fiercely despised the Japanese and Hitler. He volunteered for WWII because, as he said, he was a German American with blonde hair and blue eyes who despised what was happening overseas and was ashamed that the Germans would do this. He was gone for 4 years.
The story I heard was that when he came home, and my sister was 6 years old, they went to church one Sunday when all of the servicemen were asked to wear their uniforms and then stand and be recognized by the congregation. My sister said how proud she was of him that day. When they got home from church, he took off his uniform, took it to the alley where we had an incinerator, and burned it. “There cannot be a God who would let happen what happened to those people I saw the day we liberated the camps“ (Dachau), he said. He never set foot in church again.
Dad loved music; all music. His hi fi’s were always of the highest quality and his record collection was extensive. Same with his love of reading and his collection of books. We always knew that buying him a book for his birthday, or Father’s Day, or Christmas would make him happy. He loved Fannie May candy and used to keep boxes of it underneath his chair in the living room as well as in the drawer of the table next to “his” chair. He had a red leather chair and foot stool. Did it go with the rest of the furniture that Mom so carefully picked out? Of course it didn’t but, then, he didn’t care about that at all. He loved the color and the comfy fit of that chair.
Dad loved cars. We had an orange Mercury. We were the first to own an Edsel (ok, quit laughing.) He had a Thunderbird. Was Mom always thrilled with his purchase of yet another new car? Well, no, but then he was Dad. He didn’t care. My dad loved his family and his country. He was a loyal friend. I saw him cry twice: once when his mother died and, again, when his longtime barber died.
Tell your stories about your dad on Father’s Day. Look at pictures. Laugh. If you are a dad who had a child die by suicide, remember, if it’s not too fresh and too painful, some of the fun Father’s Days. If you are a widow with children and their dad died by suicide, you know that that brings an “extra, unwanted” kind of pain; remember, if you are able, the good parts of his being a dad.
We all have a dad; he may not be here in the flesh, but he’s still “here”. Celebrate your dad. He did the best he knew how to do. And…he is a part of your DNA! Whoever or whatever he was, remember him…. SOS/Aurora, meets the day after Father’s Day. Come be with our community….