Technically, I have a father. Sperm donor is more suitable, but that term raises questions and requires some explaining, so father it is.
My parents, you see, divorced when I was 13 and I barely noticed. My dad hadn’t figured very prominently in my day-to-day, because he had other priorities. Important things like golf, work, business travel, women. The only memorable role he played was telling me my grandfather had died. I was 12 and I still haven’t forgiven him. It wasn’t his fault, he didn’t kill him, but the news opened a hole in me that yet abides.
I was at the pool, surviving a wicked game of Sharks and Minnows, when I was paged to the phone. The timing stunk, but I hauled myself out of the water, anyway, and stomped to the phone expecting my mother to say come home. Instead, it was my dad. This was a clear breach of protocol. He’d no right bossing me around, so I argued to stay.
I lost, but I’d show him; I took my sweet time leaving. I dawdled and frittered, I muttered about unfairness, I stopped at the tennis courts to look for balls hit over the fence, then I reluctantly pedaled my bike home — the long way. When I got there my dad was the only one in the house and my senses went on high alert. Something was terribly, horribly wrong.
I don’t imagine it’s easy telling a kid their hero is gone. I’m sure he did the best he could, tried to be kind and compassionate, but my father was a stranger to me in many respects. I wanted my mother. Where was my mother? Panic was rising in my chest and I was having a little trouble containing it. My mom, he said, was with my grandmother. I demanded to be taken to her.
Somber faces and hushed voices filled my grandparent’s house. Clusters of people were gathered in the living room, ladies bustled in the kitchen, food clogged the dining room, and I searched for the only comfort I knew. When I at last clapped eyes on my mother, my heart broke apart. The sorrow and hurt burst like a thunderstorm. I’d lost my grandpa. On Father’s Day.
For me, this is a day laced with loss and absence. So rather than lament, I celebrate my dear old mom. After all, she was both mother and father, as well as my closest friend and a really good audience. She was also comically inept as a disciplinarian. When she tried to issue a command or look menacing, it was nothing short of hilarious. I’d point and laugh and go on my merry way. Such good times, you know?
Happy Father’s Day, you big fiercy.
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