Have you ever had a really bad fall, or crashed your car, or been knocked cold playing some sport? I don't know about you, but the first thing I do when my wits return is take an inventory of my body, see what is and isn't responding, checking for pain, check for numbness, and get a sense of the damage.
I always do that, but it never really works. Sometimes I'll go days or even weeks before discovering that, if I move my back just so, I'll scream like I've been shot. Maybe there'll be a bruise under my leg I didn't notice. Or I'll bump into a corner and discover, painfully, that I've fractured the end of my elbow.
That's my metaphor of choice for dealing with my father's passing earlier this year. I expected it to hurt, and it does, but it keeps catching me by surprise. My first reaction to each of the surprisingly numerous emails encouraging me to buy a Father's Day gift is "fuck you." I didn't know how many of those there were, but damn, they're everywhere, aren't they?
Stores loaded with Father's Day cards are almost as bad.
Today? Well, you know, the day itself is...maybe because I've been bracing myself, I feel less "Oh my god, why is the world still turning, does it not realize that he's gone?" than I'd expected. Or maybe it's more because Father's Day was never a big deal to do. My memories of him have nothing whatsoever to do with Father's Day.
I'm fortunate in that I had a father who liked to do things. He let me shift the gears on his car (a 64 1/2 Mustang) while he'd drink a Budweiser, which perfectly legal at the time. He'd take me to baseball games, and play catch with me, and go fishing, and take me to movies, and read with me, and help teach me math, and go on vacations, and he'd eat food he hated because he didn't want for his kids to hate it without trying it first and...well, it's a pretty long list. Those are memories. Not Father's Day. Not really.
Funny thing: At our fantasy baseball spring meeting (we have a serious league), there was a photo of my father at the front of the room. The picture was taken decades before anyone in the league other than his friend Norm and myself had known him. It was an outdoor photo of my dad in his late "outlaw country" phase; felt cowboy hat, leather, western cut jacket, western shirt, mustache of the push broom variety, and a big, toothy smile on his face. Our commissioner commented that he had "no idea who the hell that guy was."
I knew him. He was awfully happy then. I can't place the date, but he was probably recently remarried, early forties, and in one of the best times of his life. I would probably have been late teens, early twenties at the latest, and I'm pretty sure that we had some issues between us because, well, if you've ever met a teenage boy, you probably understand. But in hindsight? I really liked that version of him.
So, I'm not going to say today was great, but it's an occasion to remember all the good things, to enjoy his memory. I miss you, dad. Thank you for pretty much everything.