It’s Father’s Day and I’ve got the Father’s Day blues because I don’t know how many more, if any more, Father’s Days we’ve got, me and you. People are posting pictures of dads at barbecues, and dads on wedding days during father-daughter dances, and everyone else’s dad seems happy and healthy and I don’t know what I ever did to deserve to lose you. Life feels unfair and heavy and the only thing that really rings true is everyone has a father, but I got a dad, so even if today feels somewhere between happy and sad, I feel lucky for whatever time we’ve got, me and you, Dad.
I remember when I told you that Andy said I couldn’t ride the bike without training wheels and I wanted to prove him wrong, so you took the wheels off and told me I could do anything, and so I rode down the biggest hill because I believed in mind over matter and having strong will, and I smashed into the telephone pole and walked inside broken and bruised, and you looked at me and stood in a too-small kitchen, and mom, she wasn’t amused, and you were unable to put a sentence together and maybe it was the only time I ever saw you stutter.
I think about being little and you throwing me over your shoulder when I asked the girl on our street why her mommy and daddy didn’t live together anymore; and when you flipped me upside down I was staring down, at your back and concrete. When I asked you if I was in trouble, you told me I wasn’t but that I needed to understand that not everybody had a mommy and a daddy, even though I did, and you taught me empathy and understanding and to know how it feels to be born lucky.
I remember the elementary school’s egg drop, and how you spent nights and Saturdays and Sundays engineering the best coffee cans to keep fragile eggs safe, they flew off an elementary school roof, with little tiny parachutes, a metaphor for a life with you, the dad who tied my every shoelace. When I couldn’t remember my birthday in elementary school, you wrote it on my hand in permanent marker with two o’s for an eight.
When I came home crying because the girls I wanted to be friends with didn’t want to be friends with me, you taught me about quantity and quality and promised to me that if at the end of my life I could count on one hand all the friends I had, I would be happy.
When you told me about boys, you said to find someone who was nice to animals, and children, and waitresses, and you were always so nice to animals, and children, and waitresses. Puppies and babies always went straight for you, and because of all the good you gave to me, they run toward me too. I remember staying that weekend in Vermont and when your childhood friend asked you about my high school boyfriend I was listening out the upstairs window, and you said that all you wanted was for someone to look at me like I was Christmas morning, and you were always my favorite part about Christmas morning, you, so serious most days, taken over by Christmas spirit, singing in the kitchen, and dancing in place.
I thought when the sun come back out it’d be okay. That I was feeling sad and lonely because of cold winter days; and last summer you’d sit on the porch and watch me in the yard, doing what used to be your work. I’d stop what I was doing to breathe, look at the grass: criss-cross lines, and green. I’d come to check on you and your sunburnt knees. And I’d talk to you and drink iced tea and think life was okay if we’d get to be, like this, you and me. This year we sit in a dark living room, and it’s really all, the only thing we’ve got – me and you. You draw out letters on your knee, ask me to change the channel and don’t really talk to me and I wonder if sad will last forever, if this is all my life will ever be.
I have two brothers, who come and go as they please, they complain about their lives, not appreciating what it means to be free. They don’t have to see what me and mom have to see, like when we looked out the backdoor and found the box of morphine. They don’t sit on the bathroom floor with their heart in their stomach and their tear stained face between their knees.
Some days are so hard, I don’t know what to do because this time two years ago, I had my best friend, my dad – I had you. I used to crawl in your hospital bed, cuddle beside you, and put my hand on your head, but now bed sores make you sore and you tell me I can’t lay with you anymore. Sometimes I look over at you and you look so small and alone, so today I spray a little bit of your leftover cologne on my sleeve and wonder if as I much as I miss you, you miss me.
When I picture Father’s Day, I don’t picture you sick in a hospital bed, I picture you outside barbecuing on the sidewalk, wearing topsiders, and cut off shorts, having me bring you burgers. It makes me feel better and worse. I can smell that smoky smell in my hair and picture all those nights I fell asleep smelling charcoal out my open window and thinking it smelled like you. I wish I knew then that I wouldn’t have you for forever, because I would have asked you more questions about what it was like when you were a kid while you were washing and I was drying; I miss the part where you take out the ice cream and two spoons and don’t say a word but I know one is for me and the other, for you.