My father died in 2004.
My son’s father died in 2006.
So we sit here today, both of us fatherless, both of us missing that connection.
My father was a complicated man. He was an actor and did fairly well (episodic tv, small movie parts), but he had 4 children. Well, my mother decided to have 4 children..I don’t think it was my dad’s plan (I know, he was involved, I get it). So he also was a bartender. Many days we would not see him at all, he’d run from some acting job to work. He’d get home late,we’d be off to school and he’d be gone before we got back. He did things with us, but not often. I don’t think he had many days off, and when he was off on a weekend he’d sleep in and our job was to stay quiet and let him. I don’t have a lot of memories of my dad as a kid. Actually, I don’t have a lot of childhood memories at all. Most of what I remember is when I was a teen, and a lousy one at that. How I would bait him with my liberal sensibilities, how I’d lie to him about what I was doing, how he’d embarrass me when my friends came over and he’d wear his speedo swimming suit by the pool. I also remember him taking me and a girlfriend to see Hair at the Aquarius Theatre in Hollywood, how I would always get him to take me shopping for a special outfit, because his taste was good and I could always get more, or at least more expensive clothes, how he bundled us all into our old station wagon and we took the only family vacation I can remember up the coast to Oregon…all 4 of us! Yikes.And I was in my nasty teenage years then so it could not have been easy. I remember when I was in my 20’s and acting and suffering through my own lot of odd jobs and him allowing me to come home and live and get back on my feet financially (believe me, I did not want to be there, and I was out fast).
I remember one night when I was fairly young, maybe 6 or 7, sharing a room with my sister. My parents were having a particularly loud and awful argument and my dad came into our room, sat on my sisters bed and was crying. And he asked her, not me, if he were to leave my mom would she come live with him.
I think that memory, so vivid, colored my relationship with him for the rest of our lives.
But I miss him, a lot. As we get older, hopefully we get clearer and understand that old saw “they did the best they could”…he did. I believe that. I also believe he gave up his dream to be an actor for us….he had to support us, and he did. He did his duty. Did he resent them, the choices he made? I think he did but he did what was in front of him, he was a very good man. Did he resent us? No point in pondering that question. He was a good man.
My son’s father hung the moon. He was an actor and writer too (I picked him…how freudian). When our kid came to us he was mostly writing, and while he worked long hours, when he was off, he was off..months at a time for hiatus. I didn’t work, and the 3 of us were joined at the hip. As the kid got older, his father and he did stuff alone. I loved it…both for the chance for me to have some time off, but the bond they had was so amazing to me and I encouraged it while secretly a little jealous of it. When the kid hit junior high, his father drove him to school virtually every day. They’d listen to oldies or musical, singing along. Sneak donuts on the way, talk, be with each other. We travelled and had adventures whenever we could; New York, Paris..it was an amazing life and it was because of dad.
When he died, part of my son died. He never did, never has dealt with it. I should say, dealt with it in a healthy way, according to me. Who knows if there is even, ever , a healthy way for a 13 year old to deal with the death of his father.His life was upended and changed so dramatically at a pivotal time in his development. It breaks my heart ever single moment, every single day. Today he went to Starbucks and saw some of the old gang that used to hang there with his dad….he hid from them. He didn’t want to get into a discussion about it. IT. The dead dad. He always has a double whammy, because his father’s birthday is June 21, a date that often IS father’s day, but is certainly so close.
As I’m writing this my brother (also father of 4) is over, and he and my son are fixing a little problem on our washing machine. I want to say that that should be my son and his father, but, frankly, his dad couldn’t fix anything and had no compunction about calling repairmen. But the image stands; dad and son, working together on a household project. Except that will NEVER be. My son is accutely aware of that, as am I.
There are families, everywhere, celebrating Father’s Day. I am truly happy for them, because it is the way of life, the natural order (and that is inclusive…gay/adoptive/ whatever). We are all born of someone, and whether that person is dead, alive, wonderful or awful, they can be celebrated just for the simple fact that they donated the sperm to make us.
But when they are missed, when the loss is palpable, when the love was strong and deep and hard, so hard to let loose of….all the facebook shout-outs and other people’s celebrations are hard to look at. I though maybe we’d go out to dinner tonite, but we’d be sitting amidst a bunch of families celebrating Father’s Day. Even a movie, nope…celebrations. On his birthday my son and I usually do something in celebration, we talk about him. But not Father’s Day. Once my brother leaves the kid says he’s going back to bed for the rest of the day.
I wish that I could be enough for my son, my lovely, damaged boy. But I know I never can be, never have been. Our relationship is different, and while I am here, it’s the person who isn’t here that has shaped his life.
I miss my father.
I miss my husband.
I ache for my son.
And I wish all those good father’s out there a Happy Father’s Day.