books and reading

Father’s Day Without Dad

When I called T-Mobile on Monday to let them know that my Blackberry was on life support, the nice guy on the other end of the line asked me what I had done for Father’s Day. I responded that I do not celebrate Father’s Day.

I don’t. I don’t call my father on Father’s Day to let him know what a great job I think he did…leaving my mother, abandoning his children, never calling on their birthdays, never supporting any of us financially or more importantly, emotionally. I’ll never forget that when I asked my father why he hadn’t been a part of my life, he said he thought I’d do fine. He said, “I never had a father and I turned out okay.” Pause to chew this one over.

In “Father’s Day Without a Father,” Amy Sue Nathan writes about what Father’s Day is like for her children after the death of their father. I was surprised to hear her mention a little girl “who didn’t know her father because, well, she just didn’t.”

Growing up in Washington Heights, I knew a lot of these little girls. As Nathan writes powerfully, these little girls did not have “toppling stack of photo albums to leaf through. She has no funny stories, or old clothes stored away. She has no burnt chicken memories.” They also made me feel lucky because no matter how intangible and vague my memories of my father are, I had something, a cheap sliver compared to some, to hold onto. But every time someone wishes me a “Happy Father’s Day,” my heart aches.

Thankfully, the ache gets a little better as I get older and more positive male role models come into my life.

7 thoughts on “Father’s Day Without Dad

  1. I'm glad my essay touched you, Aliza. There are so many ways to grow up fatherless…it's sad. It's a perspective I never expected my children to have. I have learned that the least expected life is the one I'm destined to live.

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  2. When I was a kid, I was always glad that Father's Day came after school had let out for the summer. For Mother's Day we made cards, gifts, and decorated the classroom- I was happy not to have to go through that for a day that was no event at my house.

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  3. My Dad's father abandoned him when he was in high school. Until the day my father died, in '05, he carried that burden and often thought he was somehow responsible for this. His 80 year old half-sister in Montana was similarily abandoned when she was a small child and as you have said, “the pain never goes away.”

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