Saturday afternoon someone asked me what I was doing for Father’s Day. I had actually forgotten that Father’s Day was coming up, so this conversation was yet another reminder for me regarding the fact that my father has been gone for ten and a half years. Somehow, my brain just wasn’t absorbing this holiday. Even today, I probably wouldn’t have even thought about it if someone in the grocery store hadn’t been discussing lobsters for her husband’s “Father’s Day cookout”. It legitimately went in one ear and out the other. I didn’t fully grasp it until late in the day.
Having to reply to the question, “What are you doing tomorrow for Father’s Day?” meant rehashing a wound. I blinked and said “Nothing. My father’s been dead ten and a half years.” The person automatically apologized, but the question didn’t bother me. It was the thoughts the question conjured up; those bothered me.
My father was not good at accepting gifts. One year we gave him a watch. He desperately needed a new one and it was given with a full heart, but he tried it on and flat-out told us to return it. I remember thinking “Wow. He can’t appreciate anything we do for him.” Because for years, my father would reject whatever we did for him. One year I got him a movie he asked for. I had actually pre-ordered it so he’d be able to enjoy it immediately on release day. About a week or so later I asked “Did you like it? Was it good?” A few days later, it arrived in the mail. I was not pleased. When I questioned him about this he said “I’ve seen it once. I won’t watch it again. Enjoy.” I was utterly dumbfounded. It didn’t matter what the gift was; there was always some sort of rejection attached to it. For me, someone who LOVES to give gifts, it was a slap in the face. I reached a point where I would only agree to cook a nice meal for him if he was choosing to visit.
A few years before he passed away, I got him tickets to a New York Yankees game in Philly as a Father’s Day gift, even though the game would be roughly two months later, if memory serves me correctly (I still have the ticket stubs somewhere.). I scored excellent seats, mainly because no one was attending Phillies games at the time, but being in close proximity to New York, there was a lovely mixed crowd of sports fans. Surprisingly enough, my Dad made the trip out to spend the weekend and we went to the game together. I had additional tickets, but my brother didn’t want to go.
When we got there, batting practice was still going on, so we got to enjoy it. Jimmy Rollins, I want you to know that my father’s first comment during that game was “The shortstop for the Phillies is an absolute STAR. He’s an incredible infielder.” He was so impressed. It was the truth. My father called it; Jimmy would go on to win a World Series with the Phillies in 2008 and was traded in 2014. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I saw that Gabe Kapler is the Phillies current manager, but I digress…
It was a blisteringly hot day, and my “perfect” seats were in direct sun the entire afternoon. Halfway through the game my father said “Now I know why I like my baseball at home.”, which I understood. He had gone to games as a kid, but he wasn’t well, and he thought he was masking this from everyone, but he was the worst liar.
We left the game early, worn out and badly sunburned. For me to get burned is a testament to how intense the sun was that day. I was completely covered in sunscreen and had a hat on. My father, in the midst of battling cancer, only wore sunscreen to pacify me and purchased a Phillies hat once he saw how necessary it was. My father, who never donned a single article of non-New York sports attire. It’s pretty funny when I think about it now. It was even funnier because he brought a hat back for my brother from the game. He threw it back at him and declared “I can’t be SEEN IN THAT!” My brother now works in and around Philly and cheers for Philly teams. I pretend not to know him when he does this. I currently live in Massachusetts, but you won’t ever catch me cheering for the Red Sox. Some things are sacrilegious.
A few years later, my father would be gone, less than two years after his brother passed away, also due to cancer. That day at the ballpark is one of the most prominent memories I carry because it wasn’t a negative experience. For maybe the second time in my entire life, that day, he was just a father with his daughter. I’m sorry my brother chose to pass on the experience, but maybe there was some cosmic reasoning involved.
Father’s Day opens up wounds for me. This year, I choose to put what I can behind me and move forward. Believe me, the last thing I need is another reminder.
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