What Father’s Day is like when your dad isn’t around

Today it seems like everyone will be taking their dads out to a steakhouse or wallpapering social media with adorable and sweet #happyfathersday pics. I want nothing to do with it. Father’s Day is a hard time for me, and not because I don’t love my dad—because I do, and he’s not around anymore.

My dad died in 2012. Being without him has made me realize Father’s Day can be a strange time for fatherless people. Whether your dad is no longer living or just no longer in the picture, the day can be a real bummer. Whatever the circumstances for being fatherless, suddenly there are reminders everywhere you look that everyone is celebrating a holiday that doesn’t apply to you.

For me, it was especially difficult the first year after his death. I remember getting a text from my sister that read, “Is it just me or are there way more Father’s Day commercials on TV this year?” She felt as if there should be some kind of disclaimer that reads “not recommended for people that have recently lost a parent- guidance is suggested.” It was sort of like how a single person might feel when Valentine’s Day rolls around. But instead of diamond heart pendants and stuffed teddy bears, there are commercials for outdoor furniture and Dad’s day door-busters. I remember bracing myself for impending sadness when I would see the beginnings of this Oreo commercial or this seemingly innocuous Extra Gum commercial or the tear fest that is the Dear Sophie Google Chrome.

The weird thing about all these sudden feelings about the day is that when I was growing up, Father’s Day was never a huge deal. The holiday always fell on the week I went to summer camp. My dad wasn’t really one to celebrate himself, or easy to buy gifts for. Usually, day always just flew under the radar. Now that he’s passed, I’m hyper-aware of the day. I wish we could do it over.

But even though Father’s Day is a holiday that leaves me feeling a lot of things, I know I’m insanely lucky that I got him for exactly 30 years. Many people don’t get that much time with their Dads. And I realize now, three years after his death, that Father’s Day is actually still for me. Because at it’s core, it’s a day about love in general, and appreciating precious people in your life.

If you do have a dad and do plan on spending Sunday with him, don’t miss those same opportunities. Get off your phone and spend the time really listening to him. Ask him questions about his life before he was your dad. Make a memory. And take a picture of the two of you together (I will try not to be too envious when you post it on Instagram). These are things you can’t do over.

And if you don’t have a dad, you probably do have a friend or an uncle or a sibling or a mom or even a hamster that deserves a reminder of how important they are and how much you care. Because at the root of it all, that’s what the day is all about:love and appreciation. Make it count. Happy Father’s Day.

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