Father’s Day is one of the few days out of the year that I’m actually glad I live thousands of miles from home.
If I were back in Kentucky, I might drive to Kroger and buy a mismatched bouquet of flowers and take them to a graveyard not too far from where I attended high school. I’d pause before getting out of my car, maybe fiddle with the radio for a minute or two and take a deep breath. I’d probably be alone.
I’d find my father’s grave and stare at it for a while. His first name, David, is my middle name. I’d look at the year of death – 1989 – and think about my life before then. The memories I have are coated in the kind of yellow tint you might find in an Instagram photo.
Tossing a baseball around in our front yard. Catching a large bass with a flimsy Mickey Mouse fishing rod on Lake Michigan and holding up the fish by the gills for him to see. Watching the brilliant sunset the evening after he died. I had lost faith in everything, but looking at the sky I couldn’t help but wonder if God himself had drawn the shades of red and orange streaking around the clouds.
I’d lay the flowers by his name, run my fingers over the tombstone and remember why I don’t like coming here. It’s everything he wasn’t: cold and empty. It’s a hole in the ground where my childhood was buried along with my father. Everything that occurred after that would be seen through a different and much less trusting set of lens. Father’s Day would never be the same, and neither would I.
But I’m not home, so instead I play one of the songs he wrote on my computer. It’s a sad song. I think he wrote it about my mother, probably after they got into an argument.
I don’t know why you went away
Is it the things I do or the things I say
All I know is I sure miss you now
You left my life like broken glass
And I wonder how long I’ll last
Things will never be the same
I cry because the sound of his voice digs into a wound that never fully healed. When I’m done, I feel silly that I cried because I’m a grown man. Men are strong. We move on. We persevere. I certainly have, but on the one day of the year when most people my age are honoring their dads with long hugs, cards or T-shirts that say “World’s best dad,” I look at other fathers and sons and imagine the memories we didn’t get to make.
I loved you then
I love you now
I just wish that somehow
We could get together again
The song ends, and I wipe my eyes. I blow a kiss into the sky, similar to what I’d do at night before bed when I was a child, celebrating Father’s Day the only way I know how to.
I Sure Miss You Now / Dave Nesbitt