Growing up, Father’s Day was full of the usual arts and crafts, hand prints, family portraits drawn, pencil holders made from popsicle sticks, a new shirt and tie for Dad, and a nice meal. Pretty much the usual stuff among my friends, in the area we grew up in. I remember making coupon books for hugs and kisses, naps, fishing trips and so forth.
As I got older, nothing changed drastically. After Dad retired my senior year of High School, shirts and ties were out, and gift giving replaced with multi tools, pocket knives, fishing gear and the like, and the cards were bought from a store instead of lovingly hand crafted. We usually had the whole family together for a weekend of festivities (my dad’s birthday is usually within a week of Father’s day).
But as children grow into adulthood, things continue to change even more. My sister got married and started having kids. I settled in the area I grew up in, which is about 4 hours from the rest of our combined family, and I got married. My brother got married. I got divorced. And remarried. And struggled with infertility. My brother and his wife had a child. As the family grew, it became harder to get everyone together at the same time for family events. Everyone had other families to make demands on and divide their time.
I remember Father’s Day 2010 I found out I was pregnant for the first time. It was the most amazing Father’s Day ever. I was finally going to make my beloved a father. What a gift! I remember taking the test at about 5am and sitting in shock for an hour trying to grasp that it was really true. Then rushing to the store to find the perfect card to slip the test into to to break the happy news to my husband. We had been trying for years. Sadly we lost the pregnancy a month later. But that Father’s Day changed my perception of Father’s Day forever.
Gradually everyone grew, and aged. My dad grew older, and became weak and sick. For about the past 4 years it’s been a steady decline. We try to see him as much as possible, but it’s hard to come up with a travel budget when you live paycheck to paycheck. Figuring out the perfect gift for the man who has everything has become more and more challenging, because the perfect gift is no longer a “thing”. It’s become more of a feeling, and presence.
Eventually I had a daughter, then another. And Father’s Day is now something I see from a strange middle world. That of a daughter, and that of a wife and mother. I not only try to make the day special for both of the fathers in my life, but I also am torn by the need to be present for both. And I also adore my father-in-law, and want my husband to be able to see him. It’s a tough balancing act, especially with my own dad so sick. Even as I write this, my father is in the hospital, where he spent Christmas, and may spend Father’s Day as well.
So gifts of sentiment, and full of love and meaning, have come to the forefront of my mind lately. How to make everyone feel loved and included, even if we can’t be in 3 places at once.
Of course, there is a phone call, to express our love. But interestingly, the handmade with love gifts have also made a return. For every holiday I now make a craft or a card, or both, with my kids for all the fathers and mothers in our lives. And we hand deliver them, even if it takes a while.
And so I feel as if a sort of circle has been completed. I am deeply saddened by the fact that my time with my Dad is limited. But at the same time, my time as a parent of a 2.5 year old and an almost 1 year old is just beginning, as my husband’s time as a father in his own right is also just beginning. Just as the same circle of life has done for countless others before us, and one day it will be us watching our children raise families.
And so the circle continues.