Sunday is Father’s Day, a day reserved for bad ties, long naps and even longer excuses for why the garage is still a mess and promises of yes, I’ll take care of it at the next commercial break.
For me, it’s also a day of remembrance. The following is a column I wrote in 1991 about my father – and I’m republishing it now as a reminder that Father’s Day is as much for the dads who are here as it is for the fathers who were here for a while, and then moved on.
I THOUGHT a lot about my father last Sunday.
Actually, I think about him all the time, but especially on Father’s Day. I haven’t seen him in years but I still think about him.
I was eight-years-old when he left, too young to remember much of anything, too naïve to think he would ever leave us.
We relied on him like a sharpshooter relies on vision and steady hands. He would do anything for us, and often did. And he’d do it with a smile on his face, no matter how much it might hurt.
He started his own business from scratch, a construction company that began by erecting Taco Bell restaurants and grew to building hospitals, police stations and office buildings. When we decided to build a pool in our backyard, my dad’s crew had it finished before I could put on my swim suit.
That’s the way he worked. Get it done, fast. Then move on.
One day I visited him at a construction site and he let me wear his gold hard hat. It didn’t fit, of course, but I didn’t care. It was the greatest moment of my young life.
And when I was eight, he was gone. His job was over. His mission, apparently, accomplished.
He moved on.
IT’S BEEN more than 16 years since I saw my father, since I wore his hard hat or watched him baby his Cadillac. There’s so much more I want him to know, so much I want to say, if only I could find him.
I wonder if he knows that we sold the house in Northridge to live in Irvine, mostly because of the better school system but also because my mom, sister and I didn’t need such a big house anymore. I wonder if he heard about my varsity letter in track, or my band that performed at the county fair.
He probably doesn’t know that I graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. He probably doesn’t know I went partly because of him, because he wouldn’t have settled for anything but the best.
He would like to have gone to Missouri with me last month, when I got married and put on the wedding ring he left behind.
He would have been proud of my job as a political reporter, even prouder to know that when I was denied a leave of absence to compile research for a book, I quit. I wasn’t sure I would still have a job when I was done with the book, but that didn’t matter to me and it would not have mattered to him.
He didn’t compromise his dreams. He realized them – and then he moved to the next one.
THE LAST TIME I saw my father was in the hospital he built. He joked with the nurses. He looked strong, invincible.
I don’t remember much about the next day, or the funeral a few days later. I just wondered why so many strange people were in our house, and why they were being so nice to me.
What was the big deal, I thought. My dad had left, but he would be back. He had some work to do, that’s all. He’d be back.
But he never came, and soon I realized he never would. It hurt for a while, until finally I decided to do what he would have wanted, what he would have expected from me.
I moved on.