My father died 25 years ago this July. I’m not generally maudlin about it, though the fact that he died when I was relatively young can be frustrating, even all these years later. There are issues I wanted to challenge him about that I never had a chance to address. And all the things he missed. He never saw me graduate college, get married or have a child. Despite his faults, and there were many, he was also my first protector. I think in some way, a girl becomes untethered when her first protector is gone. The anchor is lost, the rock has floated away. Nobody will come kick someone’s ass who messes with you any longer, that sort of thing. “There’s always another job, there’s always another boyfriend, there’s always another city,” he used to tell me. “You never have to stay and put up with anyone’s shit.” Which wasn’t exactly true advice, but at times it has come in handy to serve as a reality check.
His death was a messy thing that caused the fault line between my sister and I and his family to rupture into a huge, ugly chasm that would never be connected again, filled with garbage and everything that’s black and awful. And I’m always reminded of that on significant days like this one, or his birthday, or July 4th, whose fireworks to me for 25 years have always just been the sound of my Dad dying slowly in his hospital bed after he suffered a stroke, four months after his heart attack.
My ex has been a father for six Father’s Days now. I no longer have to get some kind of gift that is “from” our child, as the child is old enough to draw his own picture and select his own card or gift. We took care of that weekend before last, so that he’d have something to open today. My former father-in-law was never any kind of father, to anyone, including me, and so there was no father figure there, either.
My grandfathers on both sides have been dead for decades. One before I was ever born, only a figure that my grandmother was forever mourning, forever in a plain black dress, having given birth to six kids of his, one of whom died at birth. My other grandfather was standoffish and mostly sat in his chair watching TV, with a spittoon close by and a plaid cap he wore when he drove my grandmother places. An ex-navy man, I remember his blotchy tattoos and how he would sleep in his chair. But not much else. I don’t think we ever had much conversation.
I have conflicted feelings enough about my Dad that I couldn’t really post a picture or one of those clever memes about “dads who always worked really hard every day,” because that wasn’t really my Dad. There are no memes about a Dad being a cross between Steve McQueen and Michael Corleone. So the day was not really about fathers for me.
But it became summer today, officially and a very, very long day full of a of rain, not necessarily a bad thing. I went to my Mom’s as she had taped some TV show she wanted me to watch, so I watched it. I came home and cleaned in advance of the boy’s arrival. I cleaned the fridge door and shelving and swept and mopped the kitchen floor. I did a very hard workout, put some carnitas in the crock pot, and tried to generally prepare for the events at summer camp (and my own life) this week. I’m supposed to go interview a guy about a magazine article on Tuesday. Pizza day at camp is wednesday – don’t have to pack a lunch that day.
The boy seemed taller, thinner and more tan when he arrived. He was a little out of sorts and it took him a while to settle, as it always does on trading day.
I played the lottery today too. I never play. I’m grasping for good luck.