This Father’s Day will be the twelfth I have spent without my daddy, since he passed away in December, 1999. It will be the fourth without my father-in-law–in the fall of 2007, Pete lost his daddy, too.
And yet I still find myself searching through the Father’s Day cards at the store, hunting down the perfect one for each of them. For the first few seconds, it really is absent-mindedness. A blissful state of half-thinking that momentarily blocks my consciousness from the truth–that I will not see them again this side of Heaven.
It is an odd, paralyzing feeling to hold so much love for a person and yet find it impossible to express that love. To feel the tangible pressure of inexpressible gratitude for all those years of guidance, provision, affection.
For motorcycle rides, settled into Daddy’s generous stomach, his thick, strong arms hemming me in at each side.
For soft-spoken encouragement from Pete’s father, especially in regard to my writing.
For the joy of making Daddy laugh, sometimes so hard that his face turned pink and bright tears squeezed out of the corners of his eyes.
There were rough years between my daddy and me. Years that I thought would leave irreversible scars. Phone conversations that ended abruptly with hang-ups. Misunderstandings. Harsh words. Tears of sorrow and of anger. Years that Father’s Day cards were particularly hard to read, to choose, to buy.
But then there was grace, and mercy, and forgiveness, and miraculous restoration. And one year, I had to buy two cards because it was too hard to choose only one.
When reality hits and I pause in the card aisle, my hand in midair as I reach toward a card that looks promising, it takes me a minute to absorb the blow. Then, when I’ve taken a few breaths and settled my heart, I look through the cards anyway. And I don’t stop until I’ve found the perfect one for my daddy, and the perfect one for Pete’s. And I smile, and I hurt, and I say a silent prayer of gratitude to my Heavenly Father for the gift of earthly years with those strong, gentle, loving, wonderful daddies.
Then I slip the cards back into their places and let them go.