When I was 13, my father suffered a massive heart attack and died. After that, Father’s Day morphed into yet another dreaded holiday for me, along with most other holidays suddenly defined by family gatherings that now felt strangely incomplete.
Father’s Day created an even more poignant void, as its guest of honour fell conspicuously absent from all festivities.
I missed my father terribly, and could not help but feel displaced as we continued to celebrate the day with my mother’s father (my grandfather) and my cousins’ father (my uncle), but no longer with my own father.
Though I once again began recognising Father’s Day when my mother remarried during my late teens, it would not be until many years later that I would come to think of my stepfather as anything more than my mother’s new husband.
Only when I eventually became a mother myself 14 years after my father’s passing, was my wholehearted observance of Father’s Day officially resurrected from the grave.
Throughout my marriage, our Father’s Day celebrations were unpretentious, casual, and easy, and usually commemorated by a family meal out in a restaurant.
Today I am divorced, and my ex-husband lives 16 hours away by plane and has not been here to celebrate Father’s Day with our children in a number of years. However, the passage of time does not make it any easier when the day does finally arrive, my kids now left as I was, waiting and wishing for their dad to walk through the door, but knowing full well he will not.
My heart breaks for my children. I tell them I understand. In all honesty, I believe I do. But they say otherwise. They argue that while my father died, theirs chose to leave – a sentiment that places me in the awkward position of ramping up a holiday they adamantly feel has been stolen from them.
In a sense it has.
No child ever deserves to experience the heartache of watching his or her parents split up. Even worse is when the non-custodial parent lives far away. Yet, I still cannot say I fully agree with my children’s assessment that they have it worse than me.