First Fatherless Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day and I am scrawling words in a new notebook next to your grave. The pages are blank like a life that’s not yet been lived, much different from your own where all the pages have already been filled. I sit with my back against the cool, hard granite, my legs atop the sparsely growing grass and I imagine I am sitting with you and not on top of your body lying in a wooden box layered with dirt and concrete. Today isn’t like the other days here at the cemetery. There are many other fatherless folks standing and crying at their beloved dads’ final resting places.

I am not crying, I am rearranging the fake flowers in your stone gray vases. It makes me feel like I am doing something. I imagine you standing underneath our old red deck, grilling some sort of meat on the grill. The blue and red bag of Kingsford charcoal slouched up against the garage. And with your Budweiser in hand, drinking some and pouring a little bit more in the sauce. You’d stand a little way back from the smoke and you’d look over at your garden. The rows of tomatoes and squash peeking up through the dark, freshly tilled earth.

These lazy Sundays filled with yard work and cooking and football games. We didn’t say much back then. You were a smart man who, though not many knew it, did not give yourself enough credit. But you only spoke when you knew you were right and didn’t have much interest in small talk. You’d point out a cardinal in the tree or an eagle in the sky. You’d talk about the different kind of evergreens and tell me about the big, old maple tree in the back yard and how to tell the difference between oak and maple trees.

Who knew these lazy Sundays that I never even noticed would be all the best memories?   that’s how it goes. You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

I ran a race for you today. Well, a race for Father’s day and for the Cancer Society. I went to church and lit a candle. I am sitting at your grave and later I will go home and cook tuna steak on the grill and boil the shrimp the way you taught me with the Boy Scout veggies in the foil packets.

I have been here almost two hours now. I flipped my shoes off and plopped on the grass on top of you. You never believed in wearing shoes in the summer. That’s not exactly true. You always wore shoes because your feet always hurt. We buried you in your sneakers. But if your feet weren’t always in such bad shape, you’d not be wearing shoes.

I am sure you’d tell me to go home now. Go home and take care of my babies. No use sitting here crying over something that can’t be undone. Happy Father’s day, dad. My first one without you. I hope you know I am doing okay. We came from good stock and we know you did a good job.

Rest easy, dad. Rest easy.