Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Last Father's Day

This Father's Day started off pretty complicated--lots of feels.  First, the story of the week, so quickly crowding out the supposed peace in our time summit in Singapore, is the destruction of families and the incarceration of kids from infants to teens. Count me more than sufficiently appalled. I see many fathers and others tweeting about this story and its meaning today on Father's Day.

Second, this is the first Father's Day where my only child is, well, no longer a child.  She graduated college last month, found an apartment on her own, and is two weeks into her first full time (with benefits!) job in Hollywood.  Thus far, the biggest challenge have been ants (Trader Joe's parking lots were the biggest challenge during her internship this winter).  That and finding time to do errands given the long hours she is working.  But she just got her first adult paycheck.  She did all of this with little help from her parents.  All I did was help her drive her to LA in January.  Anyhow, I take much pride in her gutsiness and her accomplishments, so this is a very proud Father's Day.

Third, it is also a pretty sad Father's Day, as I learned while I was writing this post (I was in the middle of the next paragraph) that my father passed away last night.  He was diagnosed with a terminal disease last December and was supposed to live a few weeks.  He outlived that prognosis and maybe a couple of others, but not the last one. He lived long enough to go to my daughter's graduation and that of one of my nieces. 

The way this played out enabled him to have a last conversation with each of his kids several times.  At 90+, he didn't lose his mental capacity (he was still doing his own taxes and fighting over pennies with the NY tax folks), just his hearing.  So, these conversations were mostly lectures.  Lectures of regret and fear.  We had a lousy relationship for nearly my entire life, one that worsened when I married someone outside of his religion.  He regretted what he did and apologized several times over the past couple of years.  I have forgiven each time, but he did not process that and did not move on.  Stubbornness and holding grudges were key traits he has handed down to me.

They are all laughing at my father who was peaking through
a porthole as we were taking pics the last night of the cruise
if I remember correctly.  He was superproud of his herd
of grandkids. 
Where does the aforementioned fear come in?  He worried that my siblings and I will not stick together after his death, and I get that, since my father facilitated family vacations the past 20 years or so which brought together my parents, my siblings and the next generation.  His strategy worked, as the granddaughters and grandson get along very well, and I did see much of my siblings every summer and every Thanksgiving.  Last summer, the cruise to Alaska was seen as a big deal partly because it was his 90th birthday and mostly because it seemed to be the last one where everyone would be together--that the post-college grandkids might not be able to attend the next one.  So, we went all out and created some great memories. It was doing a couple of things my father loved most--traveling, observing (but not really participating) in nature, taking lots of pictures.

While we didn't get along very well, I do appreciate many things....
That he was proud of me regarding my career and my work as he always had a strong interest in international relations;
That he was proud of who my daughter was turning into, that he lived long enough to see her graduated and employed;
That, ironically, my wife became his favorite in-law;
That we shared a love of travel and of good food (although he was very much a wine person and found my love of brew pubs entertaining);
That he cared so much about the family;
That I probably get my curiosity from him as he read voraciously and saved stuff to read even more so (he was quite the hoarder--he printed out years of the Semi-Spew to read or re-read).
And other stuff, too, that I will probably figure out at the funeral as he is eulogized.
From the last family vacation, he so loved nature so this shot seems appropriate. 

So, yes, a very complicated and sad Father's Day.  I hope my readers can celebrate this day with silly presents and fun stories and see the Incredibles 2. 


Frances Woolley said...

Steve, so sorry to hear of your loss. A moving post, all the more so because of your honesty.

Anonymous said...

May he rest in peace. Condolences to you and your family

Steve Saideman said...

Thanks, I appreciate it.

Matthew Shugart a.k.a @laderafrutal said...

Steve, this is a beautiful statement. I am so sorry for your loss. May you find comfort at this difficult time.

Anonymous said...

Condolences from a stranger and admirer. Your father sounds like he was a good man who did a good job of fathering.