This is my first father's day without my dad.
He was never a holiday kind of guy. Oftentimes when a card would arrive in the mail for him he wouldn't open it for weeks. I sent him cards anyways. What he taught me was that it is important to celebrate those people we love on a regular basis. When he was young his father, half brother, and two sisters died. His sense that we weren't going to be around forever I'm sure fueled this behavior. While cards are nice it's the things you do on the daily that build connections and bring meaning to relationships. When he died and we went through his office my sister and I found probably every single card we sent over the last 20 years neatly tucked in a desk drawer. Father's Day cards, cards apologizing for being a jerk, and cards just sharing what was going on. All of them in a nice neat chronologically ordered stack.
When I was a teenager I was pretty rough on my dad. Our relationship was strained, but the funny thing is: he was still always there. He never compromised his values to make something better for me than it should have been. It used to make me so angry! The learning from that took more maturity on my part. As a mom, I can see the value in how he approached the tough times. Being there to keep things safe while allowing for exploration, experimentation and failure and to help pick up the pieces when someone wants to pick them up is what being a parent is about for me.
My dad and I became very close. While I don't have a lot of cards I have many more meaningful things. Some that came from his hard work, physical labor and experience: cabinets in my house, concrete patios, and a deck, and others that came from his hands and heart that help fuel my creativity: wood spheres, and a brass fibonacci compass, and calligraphy pens.
I'm still integrating as I more fully join the "my dad died" club. As I reflect, I can feel the spirit of my dad in many of the things I do. I've been connecting to the idea that grief is the cracking open of my heart to make space for my loved ones to move into my soul and claim their seat on my ancestral mentors committee.
My dad believed in me and being able to connect to that feeling when I'm doubting my abilities or struggling to achieve something has helped me greatly. I've been able to gently let go of not being able to ring him up on the phone, not being able to get a hug and kiss, and not having him ever say "love you too" because it is all wrapped up in the fiber of who I am.
When I'm struggling I remember my dad and it fuels me to find my best, to be humble, and to learn. His spirit reminds me to not let my inner predator have her way with me. And I can hear his voice, "love you too". And I know it is all going to be alright.