I wish I could remember the last Father's Day with my dad, any little thing he did or said – but the events that followed it have swallowed the memory. Instead, I must imagine it as a historian might puzzle over the final days of a hapless village, busy in their belief that sandbags, vaccines, and prayers could somehow prevent an inevitable cataclysm.
I would have purchased it knowing that a wrapped-up token could not fulfill my desperate need to apologize for being a brat, to thank him, to save him.
I picture myself on that day decades ago, just past my teens, outmatched and unaware, sure that if I believed it, I could keep him alive. I had probably shopped in a too-bright department store, searching for a Father's Day gift– a tie he would never wear, or a gadget that would remain in its box. I would have purchased it knowing that a wrapped-up token could not fulfill my desperate need to apologize for being a brat, to thank him, to save him.
I could not have known on day that a few weeks later, dad would be flown to a life-saving lung transplant, only to be denied the surgery for a host of sad and reasons. Soon, I would help my mom select a rough hewn rock to mark his brief 44 years, reducing to ash a giant who couldn't possibly be dead.
Now a woman of 50, I hold onto his vanished shirttail with a grip so tight, for so long, my fingers have gone numb. I want him to tell me what to do. I want him to write a letter to me in all caps, full of his famous misspellings and all the answers. I want him to be– forever. And this is the thing about becoming fatherless, no matter our age: We walk on our own because our dads taught us how. But sometimes, we would rather be carried.