First Father’s Day without a Father

My father died last month.
He was 94 and lived a long life doing what he knew he was called to do in the world.

This is the first time in my 65 years that on this day there is no one living to honour, no one alive to celebrate. I do hold his memory, imperfections and all, in a sacred place today. But also the other man who was a father figure for me, who died a decade ago.

I admit to ambivalent feelings about my male parent. He was excessively devoted to his male god and this god’s son. I am not devoted at all to either any longer. He admitted that his love for his deity overrode any love for any human person. A twisted theology – ‘I love God so I can’t love anyone else.’

It is a challenge to understand the place where one should put such complex memories and convoluted understandings where the human and the divine tangle and knot in the mind and had tied up the soul for far too many years.

I freed myself from all of that tangle several decades ago. It made it possible to see my father as a fallible human, a talented artist and an inadequate parent. But that was my life, my history, the reality that shaped me. I am who I am for having grown up in his studio. What I learned there had the most profound impact upon me, matched only by what I discovered about myself and the world when I attended university as an adult.

My mother died 26 years ago, do now my brother and I are adult orphans. We make our ways in the world shaped by our parents’ actions and by our reactions to them as we moved into the world on our own, and we continue to do so.

This is the first Father’s Day I have not had a father alive. For the rest of my life, this will be the case.

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8 thoughts on “First Father’s Day without a Father

  1. I know how you’re feeling. Father’s Day was the same in our house. We had 2 sets of flowers to leave at graves. My dad was the last grandparent and died in September and this was the first Fathers Day without him. He was 98 when he died going on 99 in December. In the process of selling the house and clearing out possessions- it’s hard, it really is. Thinking of you x

    • Thank you. I’d not seen my father since I moved to the UK from the US nearly 17 years ago and not had any real contact after he moved in with my brother and then to a nursing home. You are in my thoughts as you go through the clearing and sellin process. I hope that you find good memories as you sort though things . . . ‘Do you remember . . ‘ ‘Wasn’t that the time that . . .’ It is a time of passing on the baton, the time when the illusory buffer is removed between us and eternity. That bit is hard as well.

      • I remember my dad telling a story when they were at one of he last elderly relations funerals. They were all lined up around the grave and someone said “we’re next” , always stayed with me.

        The other thing he mentioned was an ode. It’s engraved on he headstone somewhere in Belfast. This was in the 1940’s.

        “ As you are now
        So once was I
        As I am now
        So you shall be
        Prepare yourself to
        Follow me.”

        Dad said that someone wrote underneath it
        “ To follow you
        I’m not content
        Until I know
        The way you went”

        It was allowed to stay as it was so good!

        A little bit of light relief is what we need sometimes but it’s still hard.
        Take care
        xx

  2. Life is all so messy at times. Nevertheless, it still has lovely bits. Sometimes it’s hard to tease them out, but we do. I send lots of understanding (of your emotions) and peace to you. xx

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