Happy Father’s Day – there I’ve acknowledged a day that I’ve been dreading since the death of my husband in February. Is there any day that symbolizes what my children have lost with the death of their father more? I can’t think of one. In the past, I did Father’s Day up, breakfast in bed – usually French toast even though I hate French toast, the tiny humans snuggling daddy while I would bring in the tray. This year there will be no French toast, and if I had it my way the whole world would skip the whole day.
I’ve written about why dads are important – especially in my own sports journey – so imagine my frustration that I just don’t want to face this day. I love fathers, I think they are incredibly important and valuable. I just didn’t think my tiny humans would face even a moment without their father somewhere in the background. I was a lucky wife and mother because my husband fit the role of daddy perfectly. He was the one who woke up for late night feedings, he was team dad, he signed the permission slips. He was the everyday parent, the one who tied shoes and dropped kids off at school. James was the one the kids cried for when they had a nightmare, to tuck into bed, or to snuggle with. In his absence I’m trying my best to fill those roles – sometimes successfully and others not so much. This mommy isn’t good at roughhousing and I refuse to watch endless amounts of Spongebob. I don’t understand the appeal of the Xbox and I don’t remember all the words to the made up version of Puff the Magic Dragon he used to sing to them.
The day my husband died is full of clear moments of pain and struggle – not a single true ounce of joy from the moment I found him on the floor of our bedroom suffering from a stroke. Yet, the one moment that will forever be etched in my mind is the moment that I had to tell the tiny humans that daddy had died.
It’s funny, James and I would often talk about how our youngest was just the happiest kid. Her middle name even represents happy. She makes up words, calls everyone and everything “kitty” and just is happy happy happy. James and I would often have the discussion that the person who stole that joy would rue the day. I never considered that one of us would steal that joy. Yet, as I’m sitting in the exact spot where I told my children that their father was gone I am realizing that I was the one who stole their joy. The minute the doctors told me there was nothing they could do in the back of my mind I was processing how the hell could I tell our children.
I don’t remember exactly how I said it, how I broke the impossible news to them. I do remember my minster telling me at the hospital to do it in a neutral site, not one of their bedrooms, and to not mention anything about God’s plans, will, or try to blame anyone. Vividly, I can see the two of them standing before me, wearing their school uniforms and hopefully asking me “how is daddy?”In that moment a thousand future moments that would never happen flashed before my mind. James teaching our son to shave. our daughter’s first date arriving at the door, no dad to give evil eyes. Graduations, weddings, and so many yearly celebrations that will also have a missing person, no matter who may come in our lives in the future.
My daughter’s face immediately crumbled into tears and but my son, who will be ten this year, lost his breath for a second before both of them fell into my arms. And with every ounce of mom power, I held my babies through their first authentic heartbreak cry despite me wanting to do nothing more than crawl into my bed and sob. Perhaps James was there lending me his strength one last time because I held my shit together until the tiny humans were ready to let go, before I crawled into bed and into my new role of single mom.
I realize my family is not special, that almost half of American children will live with a single mom before their 18th birthday. I just never expected to be a single mom in the sense that there really would be no dad. No matter what would ever happen between James and I, he would’ve been with his tiny humans.
On this Father’s Day it’s hard to celebrate the institution of fatherhood simply because I am so jealous of families with dads. Of all the things we lost with James dying, celebrating Father’s Day is just a drop in the bucket, and yet it feels enormous.