Like so many things in my life, Father’s Day has changed. When I was a child, Father’s Day meant getting out my paper and crayons and making a home-made card for my father, to accompany the gift I had either made or purchased for a quarter at the local Ben Franklin store. As I grew older, the cards and gifts I gave to my dad on Father’s Day became more sophisticated and expensive, but they were no more sincere than the clay ashtray I made for him two years after he gave up smoking. (I honestly don’t remember why that seemed like a good idea.) And then came that afternoon in the grocery store five years ago when, out of sheer habit, I headed for the greeting card aisle to buy a Father’s Day card, before I suddenly and sadly realized that I no longer had either a father or a father-in-law to acknowledge with a card.
These days, my family’s Father’s Day celebrations are centered on my husband, who has been a father for almost thirty years now. We usually meet at a restaurant of my husband’s choosing, since what he always wants most for Father’s Day is simply to spend time with his kids. (I try not to dwell on the fact that he always chooses to go out for a meal rather than have me cook it, as that could be a judgement on my cooking skills.) It’s always a happy gathering, as we are fortunate to have wonderful relationships with our son and daughter and their significant others, and I know how lucky I am to have married a man who is not only a great husband, but a terrific father as well.
Still, there is always something a little bittersweet about Father’s Day. Partly, it is the memories of the fathers that my husband and I have lost. I don’t think we ever outgrow the desire to have a father in our lives, or ever stop missing them when they are gone. All we can do is be grateful for the time we did have with them, the good memories, and the wisdom that they passed on when they shared the best of themselves with us.
And even as we are enjoying the company of our adult son and daughter, there is always a small part of us that remembers, and misses, the sweet years when they were growing up. I remember my toddler daughter running across the lawn to greet my husband when he came home from work, calling “Dee! Dee!” as she ran. (“Daddy” was still too hard for her to say.) And my husband still cherishes the framed, painted handprint my son made him in Sunday school class when he was just three years old. Even though he always worked at a demanding, full-time job, my husband found time to be very active in our children’s lives, coaching their sports teams, advising them, playing games with them, and generally just being there whenever they needed him.
So, yes, Father’s Day is a bit more complicated now that I am in late middle age, but it is still a very good day. It’s a time to remember and appreciate the father and father-in-law I had, to cherish the memories of my husband’s relationship with our kids while they were growing up, and to celebrate the family we are now. Sometimes complicated is good.