I dread Father’s Day. I dread it in that “selfish and I don’t want to see posts on social media outlets about why your dad is the best” way. I dread it because almost everyone I know who’s my age gets to spend time with or talk to their dads on father’s day and I haven’t talked to mine in 12 years.
12 years! It’s crazy to think that so much time has passed. In these 12 years, it’s gotten easier to manage my feelings, but it hasn’t gotten easier to spend this day, and so many other days, without him.
I very rarely talk to my family about my dad, and not too many people even know the story behind it. I’m a very private person when it comes to this, which I’m sure some people would say is weird considering how much I can talk about almost everything else in the world. With father’s day coming up this weekend, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about him and decided it would be a good time to share.
My dad passed away when I was 16 and in the 10th grade. I remember him being really sick for about two years, starting around the summer before I went into high school when he had a stroke as he went to leave for work. From there, he had several heart complications, and I spent the next two years or so trying to be the best caretaker that I could be.
Growing up, I was the weird little daddy’s girl who always asked dad to marry me. (What is this about? I read somewhere recently that it’s fairly common amongst young girls, but still strange to me.) I wouldn’t say my childhood was necessarily a walk in the park, but I was always quick to choose dad’s side, and in my eyes, he could do no wrong.
When he got sick, I watched him have his good days, and I was there for him on his bad days. I was there to help push him in his wheelchair when he didn’t have the energy to walk on his own. I was there to help him take insulin shots when he couldn’t do it himself. I was there to run to the gas station when he needed orange gatorade or minute maid lemonade. I was there to sit on the swing with him after school and listen about his day spent at doctor’s appointments or at home with his two pups. More importantly though, he was there for me, even when he probably felt like he couldn’t be. He drove 20 minutes to school every afternoon to pick me up just because I didn’t want to ride the bus, even when he lost vision in one eye or had a long day at the hospital. He was there for me when I came home crying because I was in a new school and felt like nobody liked me. He was there when I was an angst-filled teenager who didn’t want anyone to be there for me. He laid in his hospital bed many nights and held my hand and told me that he would always be there for me, even when he wasn’t here anymore.
A couple of weeks before he passed away, he called me into his room and told me that he knew he wouldn’t be here much longer. He apologized for leaving me so early, but I didn’t believe him for a second because in my eyes, he had energy and so much love left to give. Of all the times that I wish I was right, I wish I was right about that. On May 14, 2003, my dad passed away in his sleep, exactly the way he wanted. We argued about something silly the night before, and I woke up around 2am to the white noise from the tv in the living room, but I didn’t go out there to talk to him. It will be my biggest regret for the rest of my life. A few hours later, I would be calling 911.
He was there for me at his funeral, when I literally pinched myself to see if the hell that I was going through was real. I couldn’t stop crying, and I finally asked “dad, if you’re still there, please help me stop crying.” It wasn’t until then that I was finally able to say goodbye.
I learned my bravery from my dad. He always encouraged me to chase after my dreams. “Whats the worst that could happen, someone take away your birthday?” was his motto. He is the reason I am the person I am today. He taught me bravery, compassion, and love, even if I probably also get my temper from him.
For the last 12 years, I’ve spent father’s day completely alone, whether at home, trying to avoid the masses, or at the beach, because being by the water reminds me of him, because I’m a navy brat, after all. This year, I get to spend it with someone who understands my heartache just as much, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.