This is my 3rd Father’s Day since my dad passed away. It feels a little weird because I don’t have to worry about getting him a gift. So why celebrate?
Back in January 2014, I wrote about my dad’s hip fracture. One in three elderly patients die within 12 months. Well, my dad made it past the year mark, but he didn’t make it to the 5 year mark. He died in February 2018. He didn’t really need to die, but he didn’t care to take care of his health either. For decades he told us how glad he would be to die. Yeah, it was weird. But he meant it.
My feelings about dad are complicated. I expected to be much more sad, but to be honest, I haven’t really missed him as much as I thought I would. It took me a good year to start to feel better emotionally when I lost my sister (brain tumor) and my brother (car crash.) It was awful to lose them. But dad was mostly ready to die. I was a little angry at him for refusing to stay in the hospital. He had congestive heart failure, and fluid collected in his legs, causing painful sores that got infected. While it was painful, he didn’t want to stay in the hospital to take the IV antibiotics. He punched an orderly (not surprising at all to me–that was dad.) When the doctor asked him if he wanted hospice care, at first he said “No.” Then he decided that might be helpful. He came home on a Friday. He was gone Sunday.
Surprisingly, I didn’t cry much when he died. I was mostly angry with him for being the same stubborn jerk he has been my whole life, but I also knew he was done with life. He grew up in a bad home, joined the Air Force at age 17, then joined the LDS Church, and that was a drastic improvement in his life. So judging where he came from to where he ended up, he was a major success. But growing up with him was also very hard. He was harder on me than my siblings. (They have all admitted that to me.) I always told him that I would miss him, but I haven’t missed him as much as I thought, and I haven’t missed him like I miss my brother and sister. I still think of them almost every day. But dad is more of an afterthought.
Yes, it would be nice if I could call him up for advice on some fix-it job around the house, or ask about a car problem. He could fix stuff much better than me. But whenever anyone helped him, he would yell at them. We never held the light in the right place, or helped the right way, or understood what he was doing. I hated helping him, because he was a jerk with a short temper.
So when I ask my son to help me, I am always surprised at how willing he is to help. Because I hated helping my dad. But my son seems like enjoy helping me. In fact, sometimes I think he can fix stuff better than me. This fix-it stuff must have skipped my generation. But I also know that my son is willing to help me because I don’t yell. I am much more patient than my dad was. Don’t get me wrong. I won’t be candidate for father of the year, but I’m not the worst father either. Still, I don’t have a great relationship with my oldest son. (History repeats itself.)
I wish we had a better relationship. He’s a good person. Like everyone else, I do the best I can. But I also don’t know how to be a good father. I am too impatient, like dad was. But I do feel like I’m more patient and a better father than my dad was.
As I approach this Father’s Day, it is with great ambivalence. I kind of wish we could get rid of the “holiday” though.