This is my 34th Fathers Day without my dad. It's not easy for me to believe that--that this is the 34th, I mean. Because the girl-child watching him play, sing, then die an excruciating death from pancreatic cancer, only 38 himself, lives at the surface of me. That little girl is my skin, I've never had the luxury of pushing her down, sending her back, taking her off. God knows I've tried, but she won't go.
She's the child who sits crying on her bed while classmates glide off to father-daughter dinner dances; she's the one who stammers when asked, "what does your father do?" thinking that "rot under the earth" isn't a great answer to give. She's the one who hates being told "I'm sorry" by people who don't have a clue what it is to have your father's hug disappear before you ever got used to it, being asked "Do you remember him," and wanting to strangle well-intentioned adults; she's the one who listens to the recordings alone trying to summon him back, imagining he didn't really die at all--maybe he left us--maybe he's playing music somewhere in Europe, coming back from the road any day now. She's the girl who got married with a brother, not a father, on her arm. She's the girl who got cheated out of an entire lifetime of love.
This day, 34 years later, I think of his grave in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, mourn for how far away I am from that place, that man, that grave, that faith, and I hug the little girl-child who doesn't leave me still.