A Father’s Day Without Dad
Don’t worry, this isn’t a dreary story. Quite the opposite.
After weeks of being knocked over the head repeatedly with Father Day ads, I was drained before the day was even near. (Advertisers, calm down! Love of God.) I never noticed these commercials and now that’s all I noticed. It’s these things you notice in the New Normal.
Ignore it, Celebrate it, What it Exactly?
Got me. I winged it all the way up until the day of. My concern was exclusively on my mom. How will she cope? How do I bring it up? DO I bring it up? No handbook on the New Normal, no indeed.
So we ate. It started out like any other Sunday for mom and me. We went to our favorite Sunday eats, Olive Garden (shush, food snobs). They know mom, they know me, we don’t need menu’s. Happy, fun, everything normal.
But then it happened…
I Saw Him
In the midst of a restaurant bursting with families and long waits, a very elderly man gingerly made his way into the restaurant with a walker….My dad had a walker. Too proud to use but he had it. This gentleman also had a WWII hat propped proudly on his head. Between screaming children, distracted parents, no one paid much, if any, attention to him.
I, on the other hand, couldn’t look away.
Since he was eating solo, he was seated, immediately, and right next to us. My heart sank. I know never to pity anyone. What right does anyone have to pity. Yet my heart sank. Where was his family?! Did he have one. My enormous eavesdropping ears soon supplied me the answer.
Waitress: “So it is Father’s Day for you today, sir?”
Customer: “Most certainly is! I have eight children on the East Coast. My wife passed four years ago.”
My heart sank. Again. But he continued….one of the eight gave him a $15 gift card he would like to spend today, he explained. Sweet. Yet sad.
As mom and I tucked into our regular dishes, I could hear the clatter behind me as he quietly ate his meal. I could only take so much of this. Startling my mom, I jumped up, mid meal, found our waitress (okay, bartender, let’s not get into scandalous details) and told her we wanted to pay his meal. Anonymously.
A Cheap Date
As solo diners often do, he didn’t stay around long. He had a glass of wine and salad. Just as I had watched him enter the restaurant, I now watched him silently shuffle out.
A Visit to Dad
Very spontaneously, I suggested, on the drive home, that we stop and “say hello” to dad at the cemetery. On this uncharacteristically cool Arizona summer day, there were many family and friends, no doubt, paying their respects too.
Everything was content, peaceful, lovely.
You, Me, Family
None of this really has a point beyond the following…
While there isn’t a book on the proper way to grieve, I am writing my own, only in my mind, my heart as the writer.
Obviously I don’t know this man of eight, he doesn’t know us.
But, yet, we do. Now. Because we have the opportunity to leave little markings on each other hearts. While we could only had dad with us in spirit, we could honor this man in person.
We all belong to each other. We all can grieve lost loves but we can also celebrate the extraordinary gift of life given to us all.
Happy Father’s Day, my sweet Dad.
And Happy Father’s Day, man of eight.
What a gift he gave us.