Father’s Day (Part 1)
By Lori Freeland –
There were years I gave ties, years I gave tools—those were the good years. Then there were years I gave nothing—those were bad years.Being Daddy’s girl only works if Daddy sticks around. Mine didn’t, and Father’s Day quickly morphed into Forget Him Day. Not that that worked very well. How could I miss him and hate him at the same time? For years, I prayed. “Heal our relationship.” Still, there was no relationship. “Help me love him anyway.” We spoke a few times a year. “God, please bring restoration.” Then, my son got cancer.
My Father’s Days went something like this:
Father’s Day 1979. Elkhart, Indiana. I am ten.
“Daddy, can we go to the pool one more time and go down the big slide?” I let go of his hand and run down the hotel hallway. “Please,” I swivel and run backwards. “Please, please, please!”
Laughing, he sprints past me. “First one with their suit on gets to pick off the room service menu!”
I turn to catch up, running faster and faster, until I slide into the room behind him.
“I win!” He throws my pink swimsuit over my head. “And I pick, hmm…” He places his fist under his chin, his eyes focus in deep concentration.
I silently plead hamburgers and onion rings. It is our favorite.
“Hamburgers with onion rings!” he roars.
“And mustard,” I remind him.
Father’s Day 1987. Roseville, MN. I am 17.
“I miss you, Dad.” My sigh crosses two hundred fifty six miles in less than a second. I can picture him in his office downstairs behind his massive oak desk. I can smell the cedar on the walls of the office we built together when I was eleven. He let me drill holes and mount planks for hours, never complaining about how much time my help cost him in the process.
“I know…I miss you, too.” His chair squeaks in the background, and I know he is leaning back, rubbing his hand over his face. “It was a good idea to go up early and get a job. You’ll be fine once school starts. I’ll drive up there next week. We’ll go to that hotel in St. Paul for crab legs, okay?”
“Okay. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.”
Father’s Day 1989. Windsor, WI. I am 19.
Pancakes simmer on the griddle. My dad stands calmly flipping pancakes. Dishes lie piled next to the sink, forgotten, just like me. Rage pours off my body in waves. The smell that used to be comforting and secure makes me want to vomit.
Our roles reverse this morning, and I am the voice of reason. It is confusing, this turnabout. I shift my weight. Struggle to stay standing.
Dads don’t run away when life gets hard. They don’t stop holding up your world while you’re still getting your bearings and direction. They don’t let you drown in betrayal and bewilderment.
He turns the griddle off and crosses his arms.
“You told me to leave if I was unhappy.”
“Since when do you listen to me?!” I scream. “I’m nineteen years old! You’re the dad!”
“I need to get out. I haven’t been happy for a long time.” He avoids my eyes, looks at the ground. The only sign of remorse he’s shown since this conversation began.
I take a step back against the wall for support.
“So you’re just going to walk out? What about me?”
“You’re all grown up. I did my job. I need something for me.”
“I hate you,” I hiss. “I will never forgive you if you do this.” My heart hardens with every word. “You’ve lost me, too.”
(Please join us for the rest of the story tomorrow.)