First Father’s Day without Dad

Dad sporting his new Dallas Mavericks t-shirt a year ago on Father’s Day.

“We have these great Father’s Day gifts,” said the young woman at the grocery store as I walked down an aisle looking for something. I faked a smile, said thank you and quickly turned around.

It’s hard to avoid the mass marketing of this day. Nearly every day for the past month or so, I’ve received at least one email from retail stores or online sites promising to have the perfect gift for Dad. On the radio, on TV, in newspapers and magazines, the ads and headlines scream Father’s Day.

“Are you doing anything fun for Father’s Day?” the young cashier at Tom Thumb asked my husband on Saturday. No, he answered.

The question raises another one. What do you do on this day when your dad is gone? Both of us lost our fathers within two months of each other last summer. So today is especially difficult. We’ve been asking ourselves how we should spend it.

It’s not until you lose a parent that you realize how painful this day can feel. What makes it especially tough is that the previous Father’s Day was the last time I saw my dad alive.

I could never have imagined it when I picked out the navy blue NBA championship T-shirt for him the day before. The Mavericks had just won their first NBA title. It was the perfect gift for him, I thought.

My dad, a lifelong sports fans, would have been proud of the Mavs’ win if he’d been able to fully appreciate it, but by then dementia prevented him from following his favorite teams.

The T-shirt looked great on him at the nursing home where we assembled to celebrate Father’s Day. My husband and I had picked up a family size order of barbecue with sides for the group, which included my siblings, my mom and my two nephews.

For some reason, I was compelled to ask my husband to shoot some video of my dad with his iPhone. He shot two short clips. In one of them, my dad is sitting next to my mom, smiling and laughing. It’s a silly, exaggerated laugh.

“Ha, ha, ha, ha,” my dad said, after we insisted he smile more in the photo. It’s the last video I have of him. The only other video had been taken during my wedding years earlier.

After the visit, we all accompanied my dad to his room and said our goodbyes. As I started to walk out, I looked back one last time.

“Bye, Dad. Bye, Dad,” I said to him, but he didn’t flinch. He stared at the television set. Not satisfied, I stepped back into his room, pulled back the privacy curtain and wheeled him closer to the TV. I wanted to make sure that anyone who walked by could see that he was there.

I kissed him on the forehead. Or was it his cheek? I walked to the doorway and looked back one last time.

“Bye, Dad,” I said before leaving.

Mom and Dad during their last visit together.


2 comments on “First Father’s Day without Dad

  1. Kristine says:

    I didn’t want to read this when it first came, so I finally did just now. My father will be 82 next month, and his mind isn’t so sharp these days. But I am so grateful to have him around that I don’t want to even think of a time when he won’t be. I can feel your loss. You have my sympathy.


  2. Thanks so much, Kristine. I’m glad you still have your dad. Treasure the moments you spend with him. Those memories are what keep me going, especially on anniversaries, birthdays, etc.


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