I had this whole Father's Day thing written. I was going to title it Mother Fuckers, in the most literal sense of course, and it had an accompanying soundtrack. It. Was. Hysterical.
And then, what should pop into my reader but NukeDad's tear-jerking, touching, beautiful eulogy to his father. Seriously, if you don't read Nuclear Warhead Family, just stop reading this right now and go. It's people like him that make me thank sweet little baby Jesus every day for the internetowebosphere. Go. I'll wait....
Back? Okay. Rather than write my standard thesis-style comment in his box, I thought I'd just go delete some crappy old post no one will ever read in my archives, keeping me on track for the big 1K, and tell you a little story about dads.
I have a father. He is alive. That is all. He's irrelevant. I have another father, though he'd never call himself that in public and I would never dare publicly take that sort of liberty with him or our relationship, but secretly, I love him with all the love I never got to give my own father, and secretly, I think he knows that.
There's this one other guy, though.
My husband's parents divorced when he was 3. Shortly thereafter, my oldest sister in law, Jen, went to live with her dad and the other two stayed with their mom. Neither group had much contact with the other parent after the split, and when my husband was a sophomore in Princeton (maybe a junior) his father died. It was shockingly unexpected, and the two who didn't have a relationship with him were left with wounds that, I dare say, will never heal. The one that lived with him, Jen, was devastated. He died on the 16th of September and his funeral was held on her birthday, the 21st. Her baby was merely 21 months old. Her father was her only constant, and he was gone.
I met my husband shortly thereafter.
I have my father in law's baby book, his high school diploma, his old drivers licenses, his treasured WWII revolver, and a box of pictures. I know that my husband resembles him, and that my oldest son mirrors him and shares his middle name. What I don't know it the gait of his walk or the smell of his cologne. I've never heard his voice, and I don't think there are any videos of him, so I am guessing I never will. I've never met one person from his side of the family, either, so I don't know any of the mannerisms they may share.
I've spent many years staring into his eyes on worn, aging photographs, looking for some link to my present in his past. I have always felt robbed of his presence. I wish my husband could have had the chance to hand his son over to his father, to share that moment that could have mended a broken past.
Alas, it is not to be. But still, I've thought of him a lot.
One night, shortly after our first child was born, I lay sleeping in bed, dreaming in bright loud colors. I felt a rustle at the foot of my bed and looked to see my father in law sitting on the far right corner of my bed, by my covered feet. He wore a red polo shirt and dark shorts, and we spoke for a while. We chatted about the baby, about his son, about our coming wedding. Not earth-shattering discourse, mind you; we were merely catching up. He asked me a few specific-ish questions, and then patted my feet tucked under the covers, and said goodbye.
I woke up.
It was such a clear, loud, real dream that it took me several minutes to come out of it. I could still feel the weight of him on my bed, and my feet were still warm from his touch. Weird.
I got out of bed, brewed some coffee, searched everywhere for my cigarettes that I'd left *right there* the night before, and then gave up and called Jen.
"Dude," I said, "I just had the weirdest dream." She asked me to tell her about it, and I did. I began, and she interrupted me with the occasional "Uh huh" then started asking "Did he say this?" or "Did he do that?". Well, yeah, he totally did. Weird. "Was he wearing a red polo?" Um, what did you just say?
Then she asked, "And where are your cigarettes now?" What? They're missing. I'm ditsy. She giggled.
"Oh, Sissy," she said, (she calls me sissy, and I think it's cute. Shut up) "Oh Sissy, he comes to me all the time. He does all of those things, too. Just like that. And then he steals my cigarettes. Dad hates smokers."
I don't believe in the afterlife. I don't believe in god or the devil or ghosts or any of that jazz. But what I do know is that every now and then, when I need it, when there's a new grandchild, or when my husband and I are in a difficult place, that my father in law comes and sits on the end of my bed and chats with me wearing his red polo and his beautiful smile and I feel safe and warm and accepted and happy and loved. And protected. It doesn't happen often, but it's happened just enough that I've come to wait for him, this man I've never met, my father who never got to be that to me or to his son.
He's making up for lost time the only way he can. And I love him for that. But really, that jerk had better stop stealing my smokes.