To be completely honest, I could not tell you what day in June Father’s Day is this year. Outside of knowing that it falls on the second Sunday in June, I could not tell you anything more than that, as that thought requires actually thinking about the holiday.
There are two holidays in particular that I do not care for and considering my profession of being an elementary school teacher, I’m kinda doomed: Halloween and Valentine’s Day. I’ve never cared for either one for the majority of my 23+ years. But Father’s Day…that’s a different thing in itself.
It’s not that I don’t like Father’s Day because that’s not the issue here. It’s that it’s fallen “out of use” in my life. And that’s probably the most politically correct way to say that. It seems to me that I no longer care for the holiday because, to me, it feels strange. Strange like having a 3rd arm that I don’t know how to use. I once knew when it was, where I would be, and who I would be spending it with, but that is no longer the case. Because in my mind, my biological reason to acknowledge this holiday ended 11 years ago. (Don’t get me wrong here-I have spent every year since 2003 celebrating and thanking the men who are still present in my life in the fatherly sense, from grandfathers to uncles. Even sometimes thanking a special teacher. But it just isn’t the same as celebrating the person who is half of who you are.)
The only reason why I said any of the above is because it is Father’s Day tomorrow. And because I have a special message for my dad’s freshman english professor, whom I will likely never meet or have read this post of mine, but it needs to be stated anyways:
Thank you for making your freshman english class keep a journal of their thoughts each week. It’s because of you that I’m able to get a rather unique glimpse into the mind of the father that I didn’t get to know for very long. Being as I was only 11 when he went to be with Jesus, I never got to hear stories of his college experiences. I even think that I know more now, having only been able to get about halfway through that notebook in small chunks because I keep breaking down into tears each time I pick it up, than I would have known about how he felt about my mom and having to leave her “at home” when he had to go away to VT. I doubt I would have known how much he hated standing in line at the bookstore just to buy a single folder for a class, or how he didn’t think he was very good at writing in the way his professor (you) wanted him to write.
The very first time I picked up my copy of this notebook, I couldn’t get past the first two pages before I broke down into tears. Even as a teacher and a person who has continually written since age 9, I had forgotten how much our voice comes through what we write. How if you listen hard enough, you can hear that person’s voice reading to you. That’s exactly what happened to me. It’s only natural to feel like you can’t remember how someone you love sounds after they have passed away, but it hurts just the same to truly realize that’s happened. I’ve already spent more of my short time here on Earth without him than with him, so I will forever treasure that one notebook for the rest of my life. I know I have home movies to always look back at and watch but as a person who expresses themselves through writing, I will never forget the assignment you gave in the Fall of 1983.”
A book that I recently read, and was subsequently turned into a movie, reminded me of the raw emotion that comes with human loss: The Fault in our Stars by John Green. If you haven’t read it or seen the movie, I highly suggest them both. (But please read the book first-while the movie is an excellent interpretation of the novel, it still doesn’t do the characters justice.) The way I’ve described the book is as this: It’s a really easy read about a teenager with terminal cancer. About halfway into reading it, you reach a point where you realize you can start crying at any point in time. Then you reach a point where you can’t stop crying. Despite the tears, it’s a fantastic book (and movie). And I stand by that. It will change your life if you let it.
Anyways, after seeing the film twice now, there’s one particular phrase that I realized will always get to me each time I read the book or see the film: “I am not a mathematician, but I know this: There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
I will always be sad that my infinity with my dad was not as long as it should have been. That fact is never going to change. What I have to keep reminding myself is that I got more time than others did, than even my own siblings did. And one day, my small infinity with him won’t matter at all.