The other day I went to the store to pick up tomatoes before heading home. I walked in and the store had a big display of Father’s Day cards and I thought, “Oh! I should pick up J, J’s Dad and Dad’s card.” Then, it slowly dawned on me that I only needed two cards this year. With tears streaming down my face I walked out of the store and went home and figured I’d make something without tomatoes that night. I was upset the rest of the night–passed it off as a long day–I didn’t really want to talk about it.
I’ve thought a lot about what happened and have come to some important conclusions as I head into my first Father’s Day without my Dad. First, I went back this morning and bought him a Father’s Day card. I am going to put it in protective covering and put it at his grave site on Father’s Day. I had a mixture of emotions when I realized I didn’t need a card or a gift, but as I’ve thought on it I wondered why the hell not? Some might say I am not “dealing with” the reality, but for me this simple act allows me to survive the grief and also just do something to mark the day.
But, more importantly, I realized even though I am suffering from heartbreak I do have a wonderful father in my life to celebrate–my husband, J. A little back story–when J and I married in 2002 we were unsure whether we wanted children. I was in graduate school pursing a Master’s Degree in Community Development, we had a 5 year travel plan, we were also just 22 and 23 years old. Kids were not something we could see ourselves with. As time went on we moved to Missouri so I could pursue my PhD in Rural Sociology. We traveled, we were selfish with our time and money, we did as we pleased and our marriage was pretty awesome. When we moved to Kentucky for my first academic position, I started to feel the old clock ticking and I started to bring up the idea of having a baby. J wasn’t so convinced. He was happy in our life, settled, enjoyed our freedom–and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this feeling. As we talked we decided that having one child would be right for our family. We learned I was pregnant with Munchkin in February of 2010.
As soon as we got that positive pregnancy test J’s face lit up. He called his father immediately to tell him the news. Our families were overjoyed because they honestly didn’t think we would have kids and we prepared for this exciting new chapter. As we started to check out daycare facilities because, at the time, we were both working, J did not think a single one was good enough. We eventually stopped looking because as we both said–we had paternity leave for a few months after the baby was to arrive and we could make those decision later. We never needed to make a daycare decision because as soon as that nurse handed J his daughter (all 9 lbs. 12 ounces of her), I think the decision was made. J became a stay at home parent. He has relished the role. He has excelled and molded our 4.5 year old Munchkin into the smart, funny, and kind princess loving, super hero worshiping little ninja she is.
He takes care of me since I have a demanding career. He is the glue that holds us together and he deserves to be celebrated for all he is to our little family. I need to keep that in the front of my mind that even as I am grieving and each year will be hard. But, my daughter has an amazing father that I need to make sure we honor. So, I will make Father’s Day a big deal. I will pour all of my grief into making sure J is celebrated and gets to do whatever he pleases that day. I will make his favorite foods, let him sleep until noon and all the other things he likes to do. I know my Dad would tell me to do this. He would not want me to make this special day to honor fathers a day of mourning for him–even though I do and I will.
I know this first year will be the hardest, but I’m also so fortunate to have an amazing husband to celebrate.