Today is Father’s Day. I don’t expect to hear from either of the kids. It’s not that they would intentionally choose not to call. It’s just not the kind of thing they’d ordinarily think to do. Maybe later in the week my daughter will call and apologize for forgetting. I’ll tell her not to worry.
It’s not all that important. Besides, she has her own life now and so does her brother. The work of fathering is mostly behind me.
Neither will they remember that today is also the anniversary of your death. Nor should they remember. It’s not as though you were their real mother. You were just someone their father fell in love with after the divorce. To be honest, I almost forgot myself. It had crossed my mind several times last week, but when I woke up this morning and got on with my day, it hadn’t occurred to me what day it really was.
I do think about you though. Constantly. There are many memories. Some bring sighs. Some provoke a smile. Some – admittedly fewer now – send a chill straight through me; an cold ocean wave that knocks me off my feet and sends me sprawling.
Sometimes, mostly late at night, I will call out to you in the darkness. I will ask questions of you. “Where are you?” “What’s it like there?” “Are you happy?” “Why did you have to die?” “Why can’t you show me some kind of sign; some tangible gesture that would tell me you still exist somewhere in this universe?”
I know such questions are futile. I know that even if something of you still remains in this world, you couldn’t reach out to me with your words, or your reassurances, or your gentle touch. I so know this to be true, but it doesn’t prevent from asking the same questions, over and over.
This morning, I decide to straighten up my desk, something I do every couple months. It’s not as though I perform this task with much enthusiasm or deliberation. I simply take the one great pile of letters, bills, cards and receipts lumped on the desk and divide it into two piles: one pile of items obviously no longer of any value and another pile of things that I promise I will look through sometime in the future. I toss the first pile in the wastebasket. I move the other, now smaller pile into the center of the desk and the process of accumulation will begin anew. Two months from now, I’ll do it all over again.
As I sort through the piles this morning, as usual I don’t look at anything very carefully. It doesn’t take much discrimination to cull the garbage from items that need to be saved. I glance. I decide. Garbage. Save. Garbage. Save. And so on, until I tire of the exercise and go on to something else.
This morning is different. One item catches my eye. I don’t know why. It's a greeting card. I don’t remember receiving it. There is nothing special about it. It has a pleasant photograph with pleasant bit of wisdom inscribed across the bottom. I could easily slide it into the wastebasket without a second thought. But I don’t. For some reason I stop, pick it up and look inside. It is a Father’s Day card. It's from you. Another icy wave rushes over me.
I then do remember the card. It was a long time ago. You’d given it to me because you knew my children wouldn’t think to send one themselves. You thought that someone should remember, and so you did. You left it for me on the kitchen table where you knew I’d see it when I got up to make breakfast. It was a very lovely gesture, something we would laugh about later in the morning. I must have then tucked the card away some place, where it remained until I unearthed it again this morning.
How did this happen? Six months after your death, on the anniversary of your death, on Father’s Day, I receive this card from you again. Surely this must be some kind of sign, don’t you think? It couldn’t be mere coincidence, could it? Let me know. When you can.