I wasn’t going to write about this, not yet, not today or tonight. Especially not this late at night, without forethought.
But then I saw that my friend Amy Timberlake bravely posted: “yeah, I miss my dad today,” and my heart got heavy with all that I haven’t acknowledged.
There are so many reasons not to acknowledge.
Reasons not to acknowledge. Parts I, II, III.
I have another father to celebrate, my husband, and the way he parents our kids, which is wonderfully most of the time, or humbly, I think he would agree, at other times.
Greg is one of my parenting inspirations.
We got up and got going today. Greg made pancakes for us all, because he likes to. We went to the Arboretum, and walked the Joy Path down through the willows, around Lake Marmo—Pooh sticks on the bridge!—and back up to picnic under a shelter, not because of the rain, which we’d feared there would be, but because of the bright, hot sun that made us sweat, but not too much. We talked about our favorite (in this order): fruits, vegetables, drinks, junk food, ice cream—which is a whole other category than junk food, we agreed. We extolled the surprising virtues of those newer, better, dippin’ Fritos, and I remembered, all in a flash, what I’d forgotten: my mother loved dipping Fritos in Green Goddess dressing. I remembered sitting on the kitchen counter of my second house and watching her do just this, down to the veins rising bluely on the backs of her pale hands. I remembered the creamy cucumber shade of the Green Goddess dressing, so refreshing, exactly the kind of dressing titian-haired, crisply dressed Nancy Drew might have liked on her lettuce leaf. I remembered Dr. Pepper—my mother preferred that soda above all others, just like my daughter! My father preferred Coke.
Then we went to a relentlessly sunny park and played Track Ball until we were sweating too much. Then we went home and had iced tea and popsicles. We played SORRY, until we had to leave for—guess what?—Shrek the 4th in High D 3D!, because, well, because of Greg’s last name, also now all of ours, as Halvorsen, my original last name, is now the glue that holds us all together in the middle.
Halvorsen. Clayton E. Halvorsen.
Shrek, Forever After in HIGH D 3D! was worth it—just to see everyone in the glasses. (Though having said that, I don’t care if I never see another movie in High D 3D!. Give me a Tilt-A-Whirl or an upside down roller coaster over Shrek and Donkey swinging on a pretty ball through the air any day. This last made me uncomfortably queasy—or was it the popcorn?) Then, home again, home again, jiggedy jog. Pesto (I made it). Gifts of books (including The Hunger Games, and a thin volume of Neruda, and a hot pink remaindered exposé on The Clash), and then dance upon dance performance by the kids, all in honor of their dad, who smiled and smiled.
(Is Part I boring? I think Part I may be boring. I’m making nothing more than a list of what kept me occupied today, so I wasn’t really able to acknowledge what I am now, almost, now that the kids are in bed.)
Part II: After the sadness—and what’s the word? rupture?—I experienced last fall after my dad’s death on Labor Day, I have been letting myself go lightly, at least when it comes to my dad. (When it came to him? Which now, in his regard? Present or past tense? Unsure.) I have been saying since about New Year’s Day: let go, and go lightly there. it’s okay now. it’s done.
I should have known better.
Part III: Mother’s Days have been complex enough for so many years. So many layers, like potent onions and luscious cakes. Now Father’s Days, too?
What went missing today, even with so much, so fully, accounted for?
A phone call. A card. A small token. A big person. The music. Those jokes. That laughter. The way he held his little dog. The way he looked at my kids. A glimpse of the past. The buffer between all that’s inevitable.
Tip of the iceberg.
In the last few weeks I’ve been seeing a healer who values the body over the mind for wisdom. It’s been revelatory. I’m going to carry this Father’s Day to her this week. I’m going to consider it there, not in words so much, because she doesn’t really work in words. But in presence. In being present with it, even though the day is officially done. For this year.
Father’s Day. Like Mother’s Day, it’s the stuff of Hallmark and marketplace, I know. I know. But for all kinds of reasons—light and heavy—perhaps such days are also essential to becoming more fully human?