"Turn off Facebook and ignore all social media, avoid people. The posts will depress you, or they will make you jealous. Or both. Either way, it's not going to be a positive experience."
This was the advice given to me by a friend whose parent has passed away. They felt that in order to keep my grief from being compounded, I should avoid acknowledging the celebration of others. That advice rings wholly false to me. This is a day of celebration. Why should my grief, and my missing someone be antithetical to my celebration of them? In my darkest moments, I didn't find solace in my room, or in the bottom of a glass, I find solace in looking into the eyes of another human and remembering that it's pretty awesome to be alive.
Father's Day has forever changed for me, it is no longer a celebration of what I have, but what I had which forever enhances what I have for the future. My father has left us. This is a fact that can't be changed or refuted. But how I approach his departure is up to me. I could choose to mope at not getting to hug him today, but I feel that pain every day. A day with the word "father" attached doesn't make it any greater.
The celebration of this day varies for many:
- Some grew up in a "traditional" household
- Some grew up without a father
- Some grew up with two fathers
- Some grew up with two mothers
- Some grew up losing a father
- Some grew up with a step-father
- Some grew up never knowing their birth father
- Some grew up never knowing either of their birth parents
- Some grew up with their grandparents
- Some grew up losing a father
- Some grew up losing a mother
Everyone's life is different either subtly or significantly. But no one's Father's Day experience is any more or less correct than anyone else's.
Scrolling through Facebook today, my heart swelled seeing the faces of the fathers of my friends. So many faces that I knew, encapsulated in pictures from the past. The most interesting experience for me was a picture of a girl I was in school with from Kindergarten until we graduated High School. Her picture was of her on her father's shoulders, and I recognized him instantly, I had to check the name to remember whose dad it was. For so many of these pictures I saw, this was the only way I've known their parents. We've grown up, we've seen each other through times good and bad. We've lived, we've loved, we've laughed, we've lost, we've won, and I've been right there with the children. But the parents? It's hard for me to remember that so have they, I just don't have direct access to them. Their lives keep on ticking right in tune with ours, and they have to watch us grow, and they have to watch us fall, and they have to watch us succeed, and they have to watch us triumph. Yet in my head, all of my childhood friends' parents are as I remember them from about when I was 10-18 years old. It's a sobering reminder that the world turns for everyone, and it revolves around no one.
Scrolling through my newsfeed today I was also ecstatic to see posts celebrating men who have played father figures in my own life, in addition to their own children. There are so many people who helped my parents shape me into who I am today. Also so many fathers who raised children who then have changed my life. And I look at the love my brother has for my nephew, Misha, and think, "that is an amazing father". And so, I think, time rolls on, and we can be saddened by what we don't have, and we can mourn what we've lost. But we should never feel jealous of those we view as friends. We should never begrudge someone for their happiness, rather, happiness is something that should grow exponentially. For me, 5 happy people in a room will not depress me as the 6th, it will pull me out of my own mire, and remind me that the world is amazing. What will push me deeper into despair is sitting alone, with my thoughts, shut off from the world I love.
I celebrated my father on his birthday, some 3 days ago. Today, I found myself living in celebration of all the men out there, including my father, who exist as "fathers" in my world. Either they are father figures to me, or their fatherhood shines an example by which I hope to live by one day.
So today, I say to you all, "Happy Fathers' Day".
And Dad? Thanks for being the best Dad a kid could ask for.
Photo by Danny Bristoll
(fac·to·tum | \ fak-ˈtō-təm) noun - a person having many diverse activities or responsibilities
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