This is not your typical Father’s Day story, nor is it the story I originally sat down to write. That story has been placed on a shelf for a later time. Yesterday, I was reading a recent story I’d written called “Gone” to our two granddaughters, and afterwards I asked them what they thought. Note to Readers: If you ask kids their opinion on something, they will quickly give it to you, but be prepared; it may not be the answer you were expecting.
“Papa,” they said, “that story was really sad. Why write about sad things?”
I replied, “Because life isn’t always happy. Good and bad things happen in everybody’s life. People are happy, and they are sad; babies are born, and people die. If you feel sad, write a story about it and you might feel better. And other folks can relate because, chances are, they too have felt the same way sometime in their life.”
With that explanation, the Girly Girls went back to constructing zip lines for their Barbies, and I headed to the computer. Their question had just changed what I was going to write about this week, and how I was going to write it. Welcome to a father’s Father’s Day sadness … my sadness.
My three brothers, The Sister and I spent seven magical years growing up on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo. Memories of what our parents taught us and all our adventures and misadventures are still as fresh in my mind as the day they occurred, making them easy to write about. But this story doesn’t come from all those years spent on Flamingo and the fun we all enjoyed. This story comes from time spent in a hospital room in Panama City, Florida.
For two days, The Wife and I sat by my dad’s bedside while I told him stories of what us kids had been doing while he was off at work. I told him things he had never known, and it made him both happy and sad. Happy to hear the stories, but sad to have missed out on so much of our lives. After two days of telling stories, unfortunately we had to leave and make the trip back home. We both felt we should stay, but we had to work the next morning. Less than twelve hours after we left, we got the call from Big Brother James. Dad had passed.
This Sunday will be Father’s Day, and I feel sad that my dad is gone. I feel sad that my only child is also. It doesn’t make for a happy Father’s Day. The Wife certainly helps, and the granddaughters are nothing but a blessing, but still there is a loss that can’t be replaced.
They say time heals all wounds. That may be true, but perhaps they are wrong. To me, the death of a loved one leaves a void that will never completely be filled. And maybe that’s by design. As long as we remember those that have left us, they are truly never gone. I guess by saying that then I still do have a father, just not with me. And I’m still a father, just not in the way that I’d hoped.
I write stories about my dad most every week, and by doing so, I’m keeping the memories of him alive and helping to ease the pain of his being gone. He was such a force in my life. What do I remember the most about him? Those last two days in the hospital where all he wanted was to hear stories recited from his little boy — stories written about those seven magical years we all spent living on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.
If you are down this week because your father too has passed, write about him. Write about the good times and, yes, write about the sad ones. You will find by doing so, the sadness might ebb and perhaps even disappear.
Now that this story is finished, my sadness has been brushed away, and in its place are the preparations for Sunday. Our granddaughters have renamed it Big Papa’s Day. That’s a day full of love, hugs, and games. Big Papa’s Day — it’s a happy day that I’m looking forward to.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories weekly in The Citizen since 2001.]