I’ve mentioned in previous posts that my husband, Larry, and I waited quite a while to settle down and have a family. He was 43 years old when our first son, Henry, was born and just a month shy of turning 46 when the twins, George and Charlie, were born.
Despite being what some would call an “older” dad, he was a very active and fantastic dad! His purpose in life changed from the moment he held Henry in his arms. And he was just as thrilled when George and Charlie were born, telling everyone he had his own foursome for golf!
Taking care of three kids under 3 years of age was tough. But Larry worked from home and would “pop” in and talk, play, eat lunch and lend a hand with the boys throughout the day.
As the boys got older he enjoyed introducing them to the world of sports. He helped coach little league baseball, he took them to the driving range to teach them how to swing a golf club (and promptly told me to get them lessons!) and he loved to share stories about his favorite Chicago teams: he was a HUGE Cubs, Bears and Hawks fan!
In addition to team sports, Larry loved the outdoors and enjoyed golfing, bike riding, hiking and fishing, which he wanted to pass on to the boys. We spent many lazy weekend afternoons riding the beautiful bike trail by our house that parallels a golf course and a city park.
This same park has a small lake that’s stocked with fish at certain times of the year. On days that Larry wanted to take the boys fishing he would first spend some time organizing the tackle box and fixing the reels on all the fishing poles, then run to the store to get fresh worms for bait.
I was invited along mostly to help keep tabs on the boys!
No matter how many times we went fishing, the scenario was the same.
It started with the initial excitement with regards to how many fish would be caught. Everyone’s high hopes would fade quickly as one by one the boys would get their lines tangled or their fishing reels jammed. I’d have to hide my smirk as Larry’s frustration grew. It seemed just as he finished getting one fishing pole ready to be cast, another’s needed to be fixed.
Needless to say, we never caught very many fish! But I gave him credit: no matter how trying the excursion may have been, he’d start planning another trip shortly thereafter.
These memories are priceless. To this day the boys reminisce about the fishing they did with their dad.
It’s those memories and countless others that keep Larry alive in our hearts and minds. Still, we miss him every day and regardless of how long he’s been gone it’s still difficult facing special days without him. Father’s Day is one of them.
In fact, the first Father’s Day without Larry was absolutely heartbreaking.
That year my own father was thousands of miles away. This was before he moved to Arizona, so spending the day with him was not an option. I look back on that as a mixed blessing. I love my father very much and certainly called to wish him a Happy Father’s Day, but that year I didn’t feel much like celebrating.
It wasn’t my father I was mourning- it was my children’s dad. So I knew I had to ask my children what they wanted to do that first Father’s Day without their dad.
After discussing a few options they voted on seeing a newly released movie, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” which featured the actor Jim Carrey. (Remember: there is no right or wrong way to spend your day.)
I felt a little relieved. Selfishly I thought, “Great, I can go watch a funny movie and forget what day it is.” Then the movie started.
Basically Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey) inherits a bunch of penguins after his father dies while on an expedition and ships the penguins to his residence in New York City. There were plenty of funny antics throughout the movie, but intertwined with the story was the lead character trying to reconcile a strained relationship with his dad, especially since he was no longer alive.
“Are you kidding me??!” I wanted to scream in the theater.
I came here to avoid all thoughts of death, particularly grief for fathers who died, and this is what I get.
And that’s when I realized, when it comes to death, there is no escaping grief. You can run, you can hide, you can even pretend for a brief moment the unthinkable didn’t happen… But the reality is: it did.
This Sunday I know there will be many of us wondering how we’re going to spend the day. What do you do on Father’s Day if your own father is no longer alive?
And the unthinkable: how do you cope if you’re a father who has lost a child?
I wrote the following tips in an earlier post for Mother’s Day, but I found they are just as valuable today as they were then.
For children who have lost a father:
* Involve the children, let them help you plan the day.
* They can write a letter or draw a picture for their dad.
* Is there a place of remembrance they would like to visit?
* Are there any other male figures they would like to recognize on this day? A grandfather, uncle or close friend?
For fathers who have lost a child:
* Consider ahead of time how you want to spend the day.
* Communicate your thoughts to others.
* Is there something special you would like to do to on this day to commemorate your child?
* Can you think of a way to recognize your other children, if you have any?
For grandfathers who have lost a grandchild:
You’re enduring the pain of watching your adult son grieve for your grandchild while you yourself are also grieving. Because you love your child (who is no longer a child), you will do what most fathers do and give the biggest gift of all: your love, understanding and patience.
Please be patient and understand that your grieving son may not want to recognize this day, or may choose to do so alone with his own children. Understand that your grieving son may “forget” to say “Happy Father’s Day” or even “I love you, dad.”
The biggest gift you give – your unconditional love – will be returned to you tenfold because of your patience and understanding.
As for me and the boys… I’m very thankful that my father is living close by. I won’t take a Father’s Day for granted ever again. The boys and I will spend some time honoring their dad and our continued love for him and we will also spend time with my dad, their grandfather, and let him know how happy we are he is still with us.
I pray all the dads find peace in their hearts this Father’s Day.
P.S. To all the dads out there, I wish you a very happy Father’s Day!