Here in the U.S. today is Father’s Day. I was lucky. I had two dads, Patrick and John.
I lost John in 1990. I still grieve for him, look at his self-portrait and the things he gave me, and ask questions that he can no longer answer, but that loss has lost the harsh edges, worn down and smoothed by liquid time.
Being without Patrick is much more raw, more visceral. He was absent many of my formative years, but never completely gone, and when we reconnected in part due to the marvel of electronic mail, it was wonderful.
Now he is absent again, and no new technological magic will bring him back. His ashes rest in Deia, with Stephanie, whom he loved more than anyone else.
Without him in my life, I’m a bit rudderless, but somehow I still sail. Without him on the phone, I lose track of the days, but somehow the days march forward. Without his scribbles and thoughts, landing in my inbox at the weirdest hours even compensating for the time shift, I lose track of ideas, but still I scribble and think.
A friend pointed out to me the other day that now I’m the patriarch of our fractured family, the eldest male in the line, the one to whom others may turn.
As with other challenges thrust upon me by Patrick, and before him John, I strive to do right by him, to make him proud and happy, though he is past all prideful, joyous moments.
He chose me for my sense of duty, of responsibility, so I trudge forward, tacking into the wind, lockstep with the calendar, scribbling and thinking and wondering aloud how I could have made it turn out differently.
The phrase Happy Father’s Day rings a bit hollow now, until I am reminded that my son-in-law (it’s more complicated than that, but never mind) will soon be a dad. Another loop on the circle will commence, another generation will be born, thrive, make mistakes, heal, love, and in turn trigger another revolution, and another, and another, as has happened from our beginnings, as will happen until the world is extinguished.
So I guess I can say Happy Father’s Day after all, to the ones still in the present, with strong hands, big hearts, and generous souls, and to the ones who live only in the heavens we manufacture in our minds, whose voices whisper in the breeze and guide us more subtly than in life, whose memories nourish us when we are hungry for their love, and whose character defined us and shaped us, only to have their molds crack and wash away, leaving us to stand alone.
And so, another day shall pass.