When I helped my nephew put some things in his truck at the end of our family Mother’s Day gathering, I noticed his tool box. My dad had a tool box. Whether he was laying down a roof for some extra cash after working a tour on the New York City Police Department or telling us to go weed the front yard, my dad put great value on work that could be performed by either tools in a toolbox, a bit of ingenuity, or a good set of hands, the more callous the better.
My dad would have loved his oldest grandchild’s toolbox. He would have loved watching him learning new skills and mastering his trade. He would have loved that he was using his hands.
I think when your dad dies young you go through life looking for things to validate that he was here, once.
How I Remember My Dad
There are the standard things that help you remember, like the photos that fill albums, frames, drawers, and shoe boxes. Sometimes it’s the places you pass when running your daily errands that help you remember. I often remember my dad when driving down the streets I traveled with him as a kid in the family’s Dodge Dart or when passing a restaurant that was once a go-to spot for a family meal.
Smart phones were non-existent during my childhood so I don’t have multitudes of videos or audio recordings lying around to help me remember him. I do, however, have his voice on a cassette tape that rests in the drawer next to my bed. It’s actually been transferred from a cassette to a CD, which is the most telling sign that he was been gone 30 years already.
Then there are the family gatherings. They often lend themselves to some natural storytelling and sharing of small moments of someone no longer around. They help you remember. My sisters are often very good about bringing up the stories that are told over and over, yet never fail to make us crack a smile. They are a perfect way to validate his existence in our world at a time, when as little girls, he was our whole world.
The remembering and validating help you avoid the sadness and regrets that pop up, even after all these years later.
My dad never got to meet his grandchildren.
That’s regrettable, sad, and my biggest challenge in managing my grief all these years later. He has six grandchildren in total, three are mine. My family tries to keep him alive for them by pointing out the same things that keep him alive for us. The photos, the stories, the popular places we visited, have helped us create a person for them, at least a person that rests in their heart.
To have a grandpa, but to not have a grandpa, has probably been the toughest challenge for me when it comes to my dad’s loss. There’s not a thing we don’t want our children to have in life, yet there’s just some things we can’t give them. Luck of the draw, that’s all.
Father’s Day Without My Dad
So as a I prepare for Father’s Day and celebrate the best father in my life, my husband, and honor the father who was like a father to me, my recently departed father-in-law and the wonderful grandpa my kids knew, I realize there’s always been something close by, validating my dad was here, once. It’s his grandchildren.
They all carry a bit of him through their personality, their actions, or their set of tools, like his first grandchild and grandson.
My oldest son shares his deliberate and thoughtful use of words. Although my father goofed around and teased his girls all the time, you knew when he was serious. When he had something important to say, you knew it, because he was always so thoughtful and deliberate in his delivery. My son brings that personality trait alive again.
God did not give my father any boys, but that didn’t matter to him. In his mind, his girls could do anything, even if that anything, at that time, was mostly being done by boys. There were no limits. He raised his three girls with confidence and encouraged us to explore and be open-minded about all the possibilities that life offers.
With that mindset in mind, he must be getting a kick out of his granddaughters, my daughter and my niece, as he enjoys the view from above. They don’t need to be schooled in his philosophy; they are just naturally continuing what he taught us. They have mastered it quite well.
Going out to dinner with my father or simply running errands with him always left an impression on me as a young girl. I have vivid memories of my dad greeting people with a firm handshake and a pleasant smile, laugh, or hug. My youngest son carries on my father’s trademark greetings. I’m lucky I get to witness it.
My younger sister had a hard time falling in line during the challenging teenage years. She gave my dad and my mom a run for their money. I remember a time when my nephew, my dad’s youngest grandchild, was pushing his parents’ buttons. The words coming out of my sister’s mouth during this time period were often the same words my father used on her when she was young.
He would have been tickled pink to hear them but would have had to work hard to hide the smugness from his face if he witnessed them. I laugh inside just imagining that. My dad’s youngest grandchild also looks like him in a way. His jet black hair, parted to the side, reminds me of the photos I have of my dad when he was a teenager. There’s also something about my nephew’s tween smirk that makes me think of him.
It’s funny how the people, who make me sad around Father’s Day, because I feel they were shortchanged, are the same people who serve as the best reminder of my dear dad’s existence.
So on this Father’s Day, I thank them and I thank him. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.
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Marlene Markoe-Boyd is always looking for a new friend, a good laugh, a shared moment, and a treasured story. Helplessly in love with her family (hubbie and three teenagers). But if you asked them, they would say her heart truly belongs to her new four-legged (never talks back, asks for money, or wants the car keys) love, named Chandler Boyd.