The Hardest Father’s Day

No one has talked to me about making Father’s Day plans this year. And it’s little wonder since this is the first Father’s Day I will spend without an opportunity to speak to my father.

It’s been nearly five months since he died. While the grief is not constantly at the surface, the hurt has settled into my soul, ever-present and never far.

Here are the words I spoke at his funeral:

My father worked hard all his life, but the things that mattered the most to him were his community, his family, and his belief in God.

Many of you know him as a joyous man, and that is how I think he would like to be remembered, with laughter, rosy cheeks, and a sparkle in his eyes, not with sadness. Papa loved to celebrate: many of you remember him dancing, whether at a party or at my wedding, but he also loved to sing parts from his favorite movies. If you never heard his rendition of “If I Were a Rich Man” from “Fiddler on the Roof,” you really missed out.

Papa was also devoted to his family. He was close to all his brothers. My cousins all have very fond memories of the time they spent with him. But I don’t think they heard the bedtime stories of Aladdin or Sinbad or learned their fractions and percents behind the shop counter. I can count on one hand—with fingers left over—the number of nights Papa wasn’t home when I was growing up, or the number of times he happened to be out of town. He was always present, he was always patient, and he has always been my biggest cheerleader, my staunchest supporter.

I have good memories of traveling with Papa, whether road tripping to see the country, or more likely, road tripping from college to a summer internship or my first jobs—he made sure to come and help me get settled in. When he came to spend time with Tara, he got to relive some of his parenting memories with me, strolling her endlessly through the neighborhood just to get her to fall asleep and finding inventive ways to make her laugh. There were times he would call Tara by my name, and I’d like to think I brought him some of the joy I saw in him when he spent time with her.

And then he got sick. The visits slowed. It was the weekend before he was going to come meet Devin for the first time that he was admitted to the hospital with his terminal diagnosis. When he told me, he said “I have lived a good life,” consoling me when I should have comforted him. But still, every time I spoke to him, his first questions were about his grandchildren and whether they were well. When I visited last weekend, he made sure to thank the nurses who visited him and wished me a safe journey, even though he didn’t have the strength to do or say a whole lot more than that. Genuine kindness drove his thoughts and actions in his dealings with all of us.

And in his commitment to this community, I know that you will stand with us, with me and, more importantly, with my mother as we face the future without him.

Some of you know Papa as a self-taught man. He didn’t have a college degree, but he spent his life learning, whether it was custom tailoring, accounting, watch and jewelry repair, or spirituality. Papa often read books, particularly in the evening after work, and he cultivated my love for books by his example. He was thrilled when I started reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People,”saying it changed his life. Seeing all of you here today is ample illustration that he succeeded, that he had an impact.

Papa developed his incredible faith in God through careful study and logic, and I learned religion from animated discussions over dinner with him when I was older, and from his reading me mythology comic books when I was little. It was Papa who pushed me to get an education and, later, a job—to be fully independent—because he wanted to make sure I could always take care of myself and my family. He considered it his most critical mission as a parent and in his life to ensure my independence. He found a lot of peace once he got sick knowing that he didn’t need to worry about me. His intense sense of responsibility quietly drove so many of his actions.

It is his devotion to God that makes his loss easier to bear—I know that he is where he wants to be now. We should all take comfort that he is no longer suffering, because he suffered a lot these last few years. And we should learn from his difficult example the importance of preventive care, that if you really don’t like doctors, go to see them often so you don’t have to see them longterm for something catastrophic.

One thing Papa told me when I was quite little was to always say “bye” or “bye-bye” but not “goodbye.” He said “goodbye” was very final, when someone was going away forever, not to return. And I, in turn, have always been very careful to tell people “bye” and not “goodbye” because I always expect to see them again. Today is different, and it is hard to break a habit so ingrained.

So Papa, I miss you and I love you. Goodbye, Papa.

Mother’s Day Musings

There’s lots of trite ways to start a blog post about Mother’s Day, and I tried a number of them before starting fresh.

So, from the heart, here’s what I’ve got:

I always wanted to be a mom. Some girls just know.

So, after a unique journey, when my first munchkin showed up, one of the deepest wishes of my heart was fulfilled. A couple years later, another one entered my life a little more dramatically and promptly wrapped me around a very dear little finger.

Mother's Day Musings

And I know that I’m blessed. Some mothers don’t have the experience that I do. Some don’t look at Mother’s Day as a day to celebrate. My heart goes out to you as you’re inundated with pictures of smiling families at brunch with flowers.

While I’m still in the throes of tantrums, diapers, and sleeplessness, I parent but haven’t faced any of the big challenges of older children.

My older one has developed empathy, making her a lot more fun to be around, and wants to do stuff that I want to do, like bake stuff and draw pictures. The little one also likes to do one of my favorite things. Hint: it rhymes with “Need Hooks.” He’ll raid the shelves for several volumes that he’ll bring to me in the kitchen or whatever other place is wet or sticky and insist I drop what I’m doing and answer this human need to hear a story.

How has being a mother changed me? Well, there are some obvious things, like jiggly bits, including the bags under my eyes, but there are other, deeper changes too. And I’m not talking about the fundamental altering of my DNA (it’s a thing!) that now includes some of my children’s DNA mixed with mine.

You may have heard your parents say “you’ll understand when you’re a parent.” And I didn’t discount those words. But their reality is much greater.

I truly believe that the depth of emotion I experienced—and hopefully expressed—writing “Redeeming the Demon’s Daughter” (without spoilers I refer to the opening scene of Suvi with her son) would have been impossible for me prior to becoming a mother.

I have a vivid imagination, but, like any writer, I still have to draw from my experience and emotion to write a believable character. The love a parent has for a child is different than any other kind of love. It’s not the same love you have for a spouse or a parent. And I had to experience that love to be able to write about it.

So even though Suvi and I could scarcely be more different and she made choices and sacrifices I can’t even begin to imagine, her story called to me from the beginning because of our shared experience as mothers.

And so to all the mothers out there—past, present, and future—we share a bond that I acknowledge this Mother’s Day.

Previous Posts:

A Little Honesty for Mother’s Day

First Mother’s Day