Father’s Day this year sucks. My father is gone. My husband is gone. My father-in-law is with his daughters far away. It sucked last year, too, because despite the fact no one was saying it out loud, we all kind of knew that it was my husband’s last one. We figured that he wouldn’t make it to this Father’s Day, that his cancer would, at some point in the near future, do what the doctors said it was going to do. They were glaringly wrong on their estimates in how long he had to live. Way wrong. Father’s Day 2016…he would be gone in just over 3 months.
He has been gone, now, for almost 9 months. It blows my mind, and I still cannot believe that he is not coming back from wherever he went. I cannot grieve too much publicly, as this particular loss and type of grief is the most personal experience I’ve ever known, and most days, I see no light or relief from any of it on any horizon. Some of it is shared grief, of course. I share with our girls, his parents, his sisters, and friends who cared for him and our family. But most of it? A deep, private suffering that only a journal and a grief counselor know about.
My father died almost 21 years ago. He was only 51 years old, and he died, almost instantly, in a motorcycle accident. That was a tough loss on me and the rest of my family. And of course, it was the hardest and worst for my mother. I loved my dad and he was a good guy. I hate that my girls never really got to know him. Abby was only 2, and Ally was still a few months from being born. They were robbed of one hell of a grandfather.
And now they have been robbed of their own dad, and their future children have been robbed of their grandfather.
The testament to how many lives my dad touched was pronounced in the amount of people who stood in a July thunderstorm downpour outside of a funeral home in New Jersey. For a long time after his death, I glorified and idolized him and his life, because that’s what little girls do about their beloved daddies and that’s essentially what we do when someone we love dies. Actually, we do that when anyone we know dies. We don’t focus on their shortcomings or failures or negatives. We focus on the greatest things about them. Most of the time, the greatest parts of us are silent or unseen to the rest of the world, just like the worst parts of us can be. Depending on what it is and who we are, our failures can be the loudest…but they are usually relatively few in comparison to our best qualities.
So shouldn’t we deserve to be remembered for that? The best things?
Time is tricky, and maturity is sobering. As we grow older, we start seeing our life story and past experiences through a different kind of lens. Raising my own children, finding myself in my 40s left behind to grow old all alone, the traumatizing effects of losing my husband in the horrible way I had to lose him, going through some hardships of my own making as a mother and wife, having to grow the hell up about some long-ago matters… The lens I wear now is sharp. While our eyes physically deteriorate, our vision actually becomes more clear as we age.
We just needed the right reading glasses all along.
And this is also true in how we see our fathers. For most of us, they are, or were, just human beings doing their best.
When my dad died, we had a good relationship, but we never got to resolve something that happened between us when I was a teenager. I discovered, through reflection, that one of the reasons I wrote my first novel was to bring my own dad back to life so we could have that conversation. Through writing, I was able to find a solution to a problem that cannot be solved.
My next book, Good Buddy, was meant to be an ode to fathers and stepfathers. I started out writing that novel, inspired by my husband’s selfless act in becoming a stepfather to our oldest daughter, to highlight the fact that there are so many men out there who take on the massive responsibility of raising another man’s child. We all know these men because they’re everywhere. And they do so without fanfare or acknowledgement. They do the quiet work of it each day, and they do the best they can.
When everything changed, and our lives were turned on its head, Good Buddy became so much more than a story about a man with a dark secret who became a stepfather to a fatherless little girl. The book became a forum to honor the life of my husband…to memorialize the best parts about him…to give a voice to his heart…
to give him more life…to make him live forever. If I couldn’t save him from this horrible fate, this is really the only thing I can do for him. Write about who he was in the endless possibility of a story.
My publisher, Pen Name Publishing, is taking Good Buddy off the schedule for publication in 2017. They are looking into trying to sell the story to a larger publishing house. If they are not able to, then Good Buddy will be published some time in 2018.
I look forward to sharing this beautiful and heartfelt story about a wonderful father, which is brush-stroked with the many bright colors of my husband, a good man who is missed – so, so much – each and every day by his family.
“I know my family cares about me and loves me despite whatever flaws and shortcomings I might have. In the end, that’s enough for me. As I said before, everything I’ve done in the last 20+ years has been for them anyways.” – Eric DeJong, Journal entry 5/29/2016