Father's Day: Who knows best?

June 20, 2010 by barbara

barbara writes

Father’s Day, happy. I wish that for you, whether you’re a dad, child of a dad, spouse or lover of a dad, or watched “Father Knows Best,” and used that as the standard for how a dad might be.

A bittersweet day for barbara. You know, our culture easily (if superficially) acknowledges the anguished relationships that, for some, make Mother’s Day a dicey holiday. Not so much with fathers.

Ah, don’t go away. I’m not going to go all wounded inner child on you. But the day certainly brings to mind my own father, who was a very mixed bag kinda guy.

A farm boy growing up. College grad, D.D.S. U.S. Navy officer, serving during WWII on Guam and Okinawa, among other vacation destinations. An exceptional dentist. Severely smart. Generous to a fault. Alcoholic. There's more.

Dangerously angry when drinking. Sometimes very funny when drinking. Pretty good baritone, in concert with my aunt and uncle at family get-togethers. Not very good at relationships. He and my mother divorced when I was 12. Remarried each other when I was 21. My ex and I constituted their entire wedding party the second time around. Brother G and Grampa were the only guests.

Dad died in 1989, bedeviled by the bottle to the very end. Mother called the morning he died at home, sitting in his living room chair. By the time I got there, Brother G (who has mental retardation) had been dispatched by Mom to find a sheet to cover him until they came to take him away. And so it was that the first time I saw my father in death and the last time I saw him ever, he was covered with a bright, primary-colored candy-striped contour sheet, his summer-tanned arms exposed, still resting on the arms of the chair. I debated fitfully about whether to lift the sheet and have a final look at him. I didn’t.

He was buried at Fort Snelling Cemetery.

On Memorial Day 2010, WDG, brother Garry and I spent some time there (as noted in an earlier post). Found the gravesite our parents share. Not difficult, even given the enormity of that place. If they ever remove the carillon, I’ll never be able to find them again – well, not easily.

After 21 years, I have made some measure of peace with my father. Not sure he’d agree, but for once, I have the upper hand by virtue of outliving him. And what does that net me? Not sure. For one thing, I no longer ferret out Father’s Day cards that basically say, “Hello. It’s Father’s Day!” Yes, I punished him in that small, passive-aggressive way. So now Hallmark is out four bucks a year (used to be a buck, so even faux endearments are wildly inflated). Mother died in 1999. Brother G lives in the house where we lived as kids. And life goes on.

In the busy-ness of today (a couple of soccer games in one of my grand’s tournaments, and hanging out with WDG), I expect my father will cross my radar occasionally. And really, that’s okay.

Posted in