June 17, 2011
To many, Father's Day represents a day of barbecues and male bonding. Maybe you'll go buy a greeting card if you can't see Dad in person, or give a call and check in from afar. But what if you don't have a father? Or—here's a thought—what if your Dad actually died on Father's Day?
Unfortunately, this was my reality on June 17, 2001. Tim Weigel took his last breath on Father's Day. He was 56 years young.
I've talked a lot about my dad's death and how it's shaped my life over the past 10 years. It's made me question everything I thought I knew to be true. I've interviewed gurus and several authors who claim to know the "meaning of life." Their wisdom swirls in my brain like facts when you're cramming for a test—I'm not sure it will come in handy, but it's stuff I feel I'm supposed to know for some reason.
But one lesson that always seems to pop into my mind on Father's Day comes from the Weigel Weiner himself. He shared it as I was driving him back from one of his treatments for brain cancer. His tumors were growing and there wasn't much we could do about it. He now needed to be chauffeured because his eyesight was impaired. I remember the hum of the car and the look of the snow that gathered on Lake Shore Drive as I tried not to let on that I was panicked. Soon he would be gone. How would we all cope?
"It's going to be OK, you know," he said.
"Sure it is, Dad," I said, a lump quickly catching in my throat.
"It really is honey," he said as he put his hand on my arm. "I may not be able to read or drive or play the piano anymore, but none of that stuff really matters. I can still love."
I can still love.
I recently spent time with a friend who is frustrated with her father. He doesn't communicate well. He never compliments her or asks how she's doing. Here is a woman who is incredibly successful, and rules the roost in every aspect of her life—except when it comes to dealing with her father.
"Why don't you tell him what's on your mind?" I asked.
"Oh, I couldn't DARE!" She gasped. "He'd never listen to me."
Make him listen.
So as this holiday approaches, I always seem to get a little ache in my stomach. Not really from missing my dad—which of course I do, but that piece decreases over time. It's the angst of how to spend the actual day. I used to make sure I threw myself into buying things for my husband and making cards for him with my son. Now I am recently divorced, so that's no longer part of my itinerary.
Plan B, anyone?!
One of my girlfriends suggested going to dinner on Sunday night. Her father is no longer living. She's also divorced so her kids will be with their dad.
"We'll get a group to go out," she said. "It'll be fun!"
"Perfect!" I said.
So a new tradition will begin. I feel like we should start a support group—maybe I'll print up T-shirts …
Divorced Girlfriends without Fathers Inc.!
And if you do have a dad handy this weekend, call him. Hug him. Laugh with him. Even if your relationship isn't ideal, and you think he wouldn't DARE listen to you, why not say what's on your mind? Get that argument you had over Christmas of 1993 off your chest. Make a plan to have him over for lunch. Invite him to the kids' recital.
Because one day he will be gone.
And the silence will be deafening.
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