Father's Day is here but you're not. Just when I think we have escaped the constant reminders of your absence, the biggest bomb of all is dropped on us again. This will be the third one without you.
I remember sitting on the beach, on our third date, watching sunset. We were getting to know each other, asking questions about each other's families and how many kids we wanted to have. You said you wanted four. I jokingly looked at my watch as though we were running out of time. I told you I've always loved Italian names and you asked me what I thought of the name Santino. I was smitten.
I remember finding out I was pregnant. You were off island visiting your dad. I wanted to share the news in a special way, instead of just telling you over the phone. I'm not going to lie. You weren't the first person I told. I couldn't help myself. I was going to burst with excitement and fear. I searched Google for something I could have delivered to you. Champagne required a signature and flowers didn't seem right. Balloons! I placed the order and waited. You kept texting me that you were going to the mall. You were running errands. You had reservations for dinner. I was freaking out. I wanted you to stay put until the delivery was made.
The card read Congratulations, Daddy. It worked! I couldn't stand the suspense. I was waiting all day for delivery confirmation and your response. I finally called the company to find out the driver had been in an accident. He was fine. Another attempt would be made. I was coming unhinged. I couldn't take another minute so I called you. You were heading out the door. I started crying. You were confused. Finally, I blurted out I'm pregnant! Your reaction bordered on hysteria, which we laughed about for years. Even though we had assistance to conceive, neither of us thought it would work on the first try. Rumor has it you guzzled a good amount of scotch that night at dinner.
I remember every moment of bringing Santino into this world. He makes me tell him the story on a regular basis at bedtime. The contractions, the way you drove like a maniac to the hospital, the c-section, the nurses letting you give him his first bath in the nursery sink. We celebrated your birthday in the hospital the day after he was born. You smuggled in that bottle of wine and I was positive the staff would catch you and have our baby taken away. You thought I was being ridiculous. You got away with it. All you ever had to do was flash that one dimpled smile to get your way.
You would be so proud of our boy now. He's becoming a little dude with his skater hair and big feet. He's bright and sarcastic and exactly as charming as you. He's stunning but hates getting attention. I just stare at him when he's sleeping and think to myself we created this. He misses you badly. He was depressed and defiant for what felt like forever. He didn't want to leave the house. He was angry all the time. He though it wasn't okay to cry that much. He said all his friends talk about their dads. He just wants to be a normal kid who has a dad.
I remember being so angry with you I could hardly even mention your name. I was hurt. I couldn't understand how you could leave us. It felt like rejection. I felt abandoned. The story I told myself was that this world became too hard for you so you just checked out. You left me in a shitstorm of panic and debt and an overwhelming amount of responsibility. In my mind, you didn't care what happened to us. You didn't want to be here anymore, regardless of how it affected me. And we weren't enough to make you stay. I was furious and just felt lost. Every amount of logic and independence I had began to evaporate. I became frightened and alone and insecure. All the trauma from my past came rushing back. I started to fall apart.
It took therapists, podcasts, memoirs and my life coach to help me understand that you were suffering. They helped me see that you were in pain. Not in your right mind. They helped me see through your eyes why you couldn't live this life anymore. And then came the guilt for blaming you. Even though you told me in your last text not to feel any guilt because you knew me so well. It's gut wrenching for me to think of you struggling all by yourself, feeling like you had nobody to help you. Of all the things I've said to you over all the years, I wish there was one more thing I could say. I didn't know. I promise you, love, I really didn't know how bad you were hurting.
I think you would be proud of me now. But then again, you always were. I'm finally learning how to take care of myself instead of putting everyone else first. I do yoga and take walks. I meditate. I take breaks. I say no. I go to bed on time. I'm in so much therapy. I am slowing down and letting all the feelings come, even the big, ugly ones. I am putting the pieces of my heart back together. I am reinventing myself. I am trying to figure out who I am without you. I am finding a way to move forward with my life and still hold on to you.
Our initial plan for this holiday was to hide away. We didn't want to see all the dads having fun with their kids in the pool, the way you both used to. We didn't want to see families at the beach or father-son outings or happiness of any kind. But we decided to celebrate you instead. We are going to have cake and balloons and movie night. We are going to make cards for you and burn them and let the smoke and ashes make their way up to you. I know you don't believe in Heaven. I'm not sure I do either. But it's amazing how tragedy can make you beg and pray and find faith that wasn't there before. And if we've been wrong all this time, and you are in fact here with us, I hope you feel our love for you. I hope you see that we are grieving and living and that you are always on our minds.
I remember you. I remember the sound of your voice laughing and the way you would look at me. I remember every little thing about you. We remember you. We remember all the jokes and silly things you did. We remember how it felt when you were here with us. No matter where our lives take us from here, we will always carry those memories with us. Happy Father's Day. We miss you.