Father's Day: Coming or Going

I have another old picture that I cherish, but I can't bring myself to post it. I can hardly look at it myself, even after all these years. It's too painful, bittersweet, to see Dad holding Sam in his hospital bed, remembering the twisted joy and agony of losing my father as I became a father. It must have been awful for Dad as well, as he fought his losing battle with cancer. How would I feel if I had to check out just as my grandchild was checking in, to meet my grandson on my deathbed.

Our hearts were not made to grieve and rejoice simultaneously, to break and to burst, to empty and overflow at the same time. We need breathing room between our hellos and goodbyes, without crowding our welcomes and farewells into the same conversation.

Father's Day 1989 was a bewildering day for me, holding our son, missing my dad. Suzanne gave me a pocket watch to keep as a family heirloom with an "H" engraved on the silver cover. I knew my life was never going to be the same. My mentor had moved on, and my young protege was snuggled on my shoulder. It's my turn. 

In recent years, Father's Day has regained its luster, becoming for me about nine parts fun to one part melancholy. I don't preach on Father's Day anymore, a gift my children appreciate, and I don't have to listen to their rebuttal. Our kids will celebrate the day by highlighting my quirks and foibles, replaying my embarrassing moments, mimicking classic "Dad" expressions, and by actually paying for something. It's a good time.

This Father's Day at 58 my life is strangely symmetrical, 29 years with a dad and 29 years as a dad, with only a few short weeks of overlap. For my children, Dad is a faded photo, a character in the old family stories, more legend than reality. Though they don't know the sound of his voice or the touch of his hand, all three carry a little bit of Melvin Hill with them, more than they know, the best gift I have given to them.

So, what have I learned in the years since that day I opened my new pocket watch? There is never a good time to say goodbye to those we love, our mom, our dad. And, there is no bad time to welcome a child, to hold a new baby in your arms, a warm heartbeat next to yours.

As you mark this Father's Day, remember to look both ways, those who came before and those who follow after. Coming or going, aged or newborn or in between, hold them tight, kiss their face, whisper your love in their ear, for this is life, and while we linger, our moments become memories.


Roger Hatfield said…
Priceless, Drew, beyond words, and shows the authenticity of your life. The older I get, and those birthdays come fast, the more anticipation I have of a place, really a new world, where, among all other things, Sam and your dad, I see him yet, connect for an eternity with you in the middle.

What a great and encouraging post on so many levels....

Happy Father's Day, friend,

Popular Posts