The Greatest Gift My Father Left Me

IMG_3416This Sunday will be my third Sunday as a fatherless daughter on Father’s Day. The pain doesn’t go away, you just learn how to disguise it. My father died after a seven year battle with Stage IV base of the tongue cancer. He spent the last four years of his life surviving on a peg tube inserted into his belly. That peg tube was his sole means of nutrition.

I felt robbed. Robbed of the relationship I dreamed of having with my father as he grew older. Taking him out to a restaurant or pretty much anyplace was out of the question. He was too sick and frail and couldn’t eat orally. As my father’s health was ripped away from him I became angry. I couldn’t understand how my father, the man who was larger than life now needed my assistance just too slowly shuffle to the restroom and eventually press a button on the television’s remote control to change the channel.

It wasn’t fair.

Why my father?

The moment my father took his last breath was one of those unprecedented moments, a moment that is now a part of me, a moment that defines me. A moment that, despite my father being so ill I could never imagine the pain and the waves of sorrow that would try to suffocate me for the rest of my life. I could never imagine the enormous void my father was about to have on our family. As I held his hand and watched my father take his last breath, I felt pain so ferocious I was positive that I too was dying.

I would be lying if I told you that three years later I had some sort of an epiphany and I’m okay with the suffering my father endured. I’m not.  I would be lying if I told you that as time goes by the holidays become easier. They don’t. I would be lying if I told you I no longer have moments where I feel incredibly small and alone in this world as a fatherless daughter. I do.

And my pain is magnified during weekends like Father’s Day.

While my friends are scrambling for the perfect gift for Dad, and others are trying to squeeze their father into their chaotic schedules, I’m trying to figure out what flower will last on my father’s grave. I desperately try to quiet my brain as I’m bombarded with the endless Father’s Day commercials and I sometimes scream at my television, “Do you have the perfect gift for the dead Dad?”

Since my father died, each June, I now have an ache from missing my father on Father’s Day. But despite my heartache, I know I was fortunate enough to be raised by a man that loved me enough to leave a mark to last a lifetime. I know I am truly blessed to be one of “Al’s daughters.” My love for my father is so massive, that even three years after his death it remains unfinished and messy in a tangle of emotions that surround a day that will always be for him.

And even now, as a grown up I would do anything to hear his voice, to spend just five more minutes with him. I would still do anything to buy him the best gift money could buy and to take him to the fanciest restaurant around, when in my heart I know he would be just as happy with that silly macaroni tie that said, “My Dad Is Rad.” That gift I made him a lifetime ago, back in kindergarten. Because he loved me.  And love is the greatest gift my father gave me, a gift that never dies.

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