This is so weird. For the first time in 52 years, I can't call to wish you a happy Father's Day. I'd like to think I had a direct line to heaven, but you and I both know my permanent record wouldn't pass St. Peter's speed dial criteria. (What can I say? I was a teenager in the '70s. My permanent record never had a chance.)
So, I'm sending you this letter with the Pollyannaish hope that somehow, wherever you are, you'll receive my Father's Day missive. (I mean, they've got to have Internet access in the Great Beyond, right? Otherwise, how great could it be?)
How are you getting along? Is it pretty much as you expected, or has it been a complete, otherworldly surprise? Did you locate your missing socks and golf balls? You always said you'd find them "on the other side" someday.
Things here are going OK. It's been rough for everyone, especially Mom. Her heart is broken, and I fear it will never mend. But don't worry about her, Dad. Every day, she finds another ounce of strength she didn't know she had. The other day, when one of my friends asked her how she was doing, she answered, "I'm learning that you can still laugh and have fun, even when you don't feel real joy." I think that pretty much sums it up for everybody right now.
Since you left us so suddenly three months ago, I've been thinking about how I would have said "goodbye" to you, if given the chance.
I've always hated goodbyes. To this day, when one of the kids gets ready to leave town, I get so choked up I can't even speak. We're talking no audible sound whatsoever, Dad. Our airport farewells turn into pathetic games of Charades with me struggling to act out "Call me when you get there" between sobs, while the young traveler reluctantly plays along:
"It's a song : no, an expression : six words : God, Mom, this is so embarrassing : first word, one syllable : phone : CELL PHONE! : I know that's two words : talk? : TALK AMONGST YOURSELVES!!!... no, that's only three ... OK, first word : sounds like : give me something to work with, Mom, they're boarding already : I'll be back in a week, for crying out loud."
I'd hate to think our last moments together would have disintegrated into a melodramatic scene. Hopefully, I'd have been able to articulate all that you meant to me in spontaneous, heartfelt prose while meeting your eyes and holding your hand, without collapsing into tears. (Ha! Fat chance. I'm crying just thinking about it.)
Shortly after you died, I wrote a column about how lucky I was to have had such a wonderful father. I meant every one of those words, Dad, but I grieved thinking you'd never read them. You always knew how much I loved you. I just wish I would have explained why.
We all thought it such a shame you weren't able to hear the wonderful accolades from friends and family at your funeral, or read the heartfelt letters sent by your many admirers. People were so kind, so earnest in their eulogies. It would have done your heart good to know how widely and deeply you were loved.
Want to know what I think, Dad? I think we need to share those tributes while we still have the chance. We need to grab on to the people closest to us, and tell them how and why and to what extent we love them. They need to hear - while they still can - exactly what we admire about them, how they've influenced and inspired us, and how they'll be remembered. Because eulogies come too damned late. And those "You're the greatest" Father's Day cards, while cute and clever, just don't say enough.
Today, I will miss you terribly, but I will celebrate and honor the other dad in my life - the father of your grandkids. I will grab onto him and try my best to tell him how and why and to what extent he is loved. And I will encourage his children to do the same, and not just on the third Sunday in June.
Well, take care, Dad. And work on that celestial Internet service, will you? I may be writing again soon.