I have passed the rows of Father's Day cards when shopping for weeks now. It's like a knife to my heart every time. I even stopped and read a few last week, seeing what it would do to me to read words I'll never get to say to you again. The grief is different now, eight years after your death. It is a copper basin, deep and somber. It echoes when the teardrops drops fall, and they do fall still. It is fresh and old all at once, this grief. It has become a part of me.
The Father's Day ads are everywhere, a constant reminder that I am alone. Each reminder lances that grief, sometimes deeply and others merely scratch the surface. I have lived with this pain since I was 16 -- this tension between everyday joy and a burden that was too heavy for a young girl to bear.
I envy the happy celebrants: the fathers, the sons and daughters who rush to buy one of those cards or will be grilling out for their dad this Sunday. I envy the fathers who screamed and yelled for their children at graduation ceremonies -- I never got to hear my parents' voices on graduation day, nor endure the onslaught of hugs and endless advice. I would have given anything for that. But no, their voices are forever silent.
I envy them, these daughters and sons whose parents are still a part of their lives. They have a chance to fix mistakes, to show appreciation for the tough lessons, and still have the chance to sit down on the couch together and eat a bowl of ice cream. I have none of those; my chance to say thank you was ended long before I knew how grateful I would truly be.
So instead I turn inward, memorializing through internal joy and personal sorrow. I pull out memories like photos in an album, trying to remember the moments as the details seem to fade more and more every year. As much as I would love to remember them as perfect, wonderful parents- they were human. They failed, they messed up, and they were flawed. I try to remember these things, to know that they were not martyrs or saints, but people who tried. I too try, and fail, and will try and fail and succeed over and over until my final day arrives.
Sixteen years of memories are not enough. Sixteen years of knowledge shared, wisdom taught, and lessons barely learned are not enough. And yet, that is all that I have to celebrate this Father's Day. So, like every year, I will hold those memories close to my heart and shut out the rest of the world on Father's Day. I will turn my father's favorite music up loud, dance and cry and grieve in my own way.
Loss and pain have no set format, no five step list to be "OK." Grief ebbs and flows like an unpredictable tide, and is never far from the shore of happiness. Joy and pain for me are part of the same memories, joined together as an inseparable part of my life. When I grieve this Sunday, I will also laugh and celebrate the imperfect Father that taught me to be strong and courageous. I will remember the man who taught me to throw a baseball properly and who made the best scrambled eggs I've ever had. Though Sunday is an empty Father's Day for me, it holds a legacy full of love, laughter, and a rare strength forged through pain. I am my father's daughter -- forever.
Read more about Michelle and her work via her personal blog here.