The Father’s Day Gifts My Father Left for Me

The moment my father died was one of those indelible moments, the kind that stays with you. What I knew at that moment was emotional pain so searing that it doubled me over with its intensity and then made me feel so completely exhausted, so utterly drained that I could barely open my eyes.

At that moment I knew in a visceral, gut-wrenching way that my life had just been unalterably and fundamentally changed.

But, in that moment there were many things I did not realize.

Helene Wingens and father
Helene Wingens and her father. (Helene Wingens)

The things I didn’t realize when dad died

I didn’t realize the ripple effect; that my relationship with my mother would be forever transformed, that my children would never get to know the father I adored, and that as relationships shifted the entire dynamic of two loving parents and grandparents would be turned on its head.

I didn’t realize that I would always thirst for dad’s approval, even in his absence, which is ironic because the bar to earning his approval was preposterously low. Merely existing seemed sufficient, yet it is his approbation that I continue to chase.

I didn’t realize that I would yearn for and be blessed with a third child, his grandfather’s namesake, who would bear an almost startling likeness in appearance and personality to his late grandfather. That although that child would bring me overwhelming comfort and joy, he would not stand in my father’s stead. People are not fungible.

I didn’t realize that some people leave us with a void that can never be filled. Many well-meaning people assured me that it gets easier, and they were right, but they failed to tell me that I would never stop yearning to have him back for one day, one hour, even one minute.

I didn’t realize that the waves of sorrow that initially brought me to my knees would become far less frequent and much more gentle as they washed over me.

I didn’t realize that I would eventually string together so many days of being fine with the new reality that those good days would gradually stretch into months and then years.

I didn’t realize that I would one day be able to celebrate the joy of having loved him and having been loved by him with a smile, without a single tear. But like a cloudburst on a sunny day, seemingly out of nowhere, sometimes the tears would still come.

I didn’t realize any of these things on the day my father died, but on that day, in that moment, I knew that I already missed him.

I still do.

I always will.

More Great Reads:

20 Things Moms Want Dads to Know on Father’s Day

My Daughters Have a Wonderful Father, Something I Never Had

About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Forward, and Grown and Flown where she is Managing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

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