Saturday, June 19, 2010

Fatherless on Father's Day

Tami and Dad 2006The last time I spoke with my dad was on Father’s Day two years ago, when I called him from South Korea to wish him a happy Father's Day. At the time, I was wrapping up my work project in South Korea, and looking forward to spending some vacation time with Chris in Korea and China before heading home....

It was always fun calling my parents when I was out of the country. It was so special to them and seemed amazing that I was calling from so far away. As soon as my mom realized it was me, she yelled to my dad across the house: “It’s Tami, she’s calling from Korea!”

Mom and Dad 1970'sMom stayed on the line for a few minutes, while I updated them both on my latest adventures in Korea. Then, dad and I spent some time talking about his latest tomato experiments, and how all the rain had put him behind schedule, and we guessed how early he would have his first ripe tomatoes of the season.

I’m sure I talked to him about some of the challenges I was having adjusting to Korean culture, and how hard the work was. He probably told me how proud he was of me, as he often did.

Two days later, Chris arrived in Korea in time for dinner and then early to bed after a long day of traveling. I woke up around 2am with work deadlines looming on my mind, wondering how I would get everything done. After lying awake for a few minutes, I decided to step out of the hotel room to catch up on email while Chris was still sleeping.

Dad with daughters Kim and Tami 1970'sWhen I returned to the room about an hour later, Chris was awake and talking to someone on the hotel phone. It was my mom. My dad was dead.

A few hours earlier, I would have gotten the news all alone. But Chris was there. As it turned out, he had flown 7000 miles to Korea to pick me up and take me home.

Now here I am, two years later. It’s my second Father’s Day without a father. I still haven’t gotten around to creating the photo montage of his life, set to his favorite music, as I’ve been meaning to do.

Dad with son Kevin 1981I haven’t been back to his grave site since the funeral. I still don’t know how I’m supposed to feel, or what I’m supposed to do to commemorate the anniversary of his death, or what I’m supposed to do on Father’s Day.

So I’ve decided to spend some time with myself, thinking about him, writing in my blog, and being sad because I miss him.

I have much to be thankful for. I have a great life and a great family, and I am even enjoying my job now, for the first time in years.

Most days and weeks and months that pass, I push the memory of my dad into a sealed compartment in my mind or in my heart, and I try not to think about him for more than a few minutes at a time, lest I get sad and start to cry, and my eyes get puffy, and someone finds out that I’ve been crying, and then I have to explain why. Oh, how I dread having to talk about it. Much easier to keep the memories locked away where they can't trigger any pesky emotions.

Dad with granddaughter Kami 2004Not today. Today, I am not going to be strong or happy or thankful about anything. I am going to think about my dad as much as I want, and my heart is going to ache because I miss him so much, and because I will never be able to connect with another human being in the same way I connected with him, and because no one will ever “get” me like he did, and because the world is worse off without him and I still had so much to learn from him.

Soon, I will have spent enough time wallowing in sorrow and will allow the joy of life return to my heart. Until then, I will be unapologetically sad, since that's what I need to be this Father's Day.

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