Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
People keep saying you’re in a better place, and I believe them.
But that still doesn’t mean we don’t wish things were different.
It doesn’t mean we don’t think it absolutely sucks to lose a dad and an Opa to lung cancer, you who never smoked in your life, except for that one time, when you were a kid, with the rhubarb leaves. Even if you had smoked, it wouldn’t be okay to lose you at age 68. That will never be okay, on this side.
I wish I could tell you so many things, about my writing, about books I’ve read, and movies I’ve seen. (Recently, we watched “Red Army” with the boys, which is about the Soviet Red Army hockey team. I told the boys it was a connection to you, because you had known what it was like to be scared of the secret police in your Stalinist childhood. You had known what it was like to defect from the Reds. PS: I am always looking for ways to make you seem alive to your grandchildren. This was just one of the ways.)
Mostly, I wish I could tell you about my family, our joys and concerns.
One of greatest losses of you being gone is that seven wonderful kids don’t get to have you as their physically present Opa.
You’re not living in the apartment on Henderson HWY anymore, ready to dole out Loonies and treats and Slurpee money and hugs anymore.
You’re not here to come visit, and see your grandchildren do their thing, and light up this world with their graces and gifts. You’re not on the other end of the phone line, singing “Happy Birthday,” talking about the Jets or the Bombers. You’re not there to hear about the way your grandchildren are growing up, so fast, beautiful, accomplished, loving Jesus. You’re not there to hear the words “Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Happy Father’s Day, Opa.”
And that may be the worst thing of all.
It made me think: If we could get you back for one more day, for one more Father’s Day, what would we give you? What would make you happiest in the receiving of our gifts?
I think I know.
Gift #1: I would have Jonah play you a few songs on his guitar, his true love. And you would be so proud of his musical gifts (“Finally!” you might say, even out loud. “A musically inclined offspring!”)
Gift #2: I would commission Ezra to draw you a picture and write you a story. (In the mysterious alchemy of adoption, did he get his artistic bent from YOU? I’ve wondered this many times, because there is no striking artistic talent on either side of my birth family.)
And your granddaughter with the honey-colored skin and eyes like marquise gemstones?
Gift #3: She would show off her keeper skills, and keep a multitude of soccer balls out of the net–with her face, if she had to!
Gift #4: Doyle would tell you about being in the Gospel choir, and how they sing the Andre Crouch songs you adore. By the way, the choir IS singing this Sunday, so give a listen, wherever you are. You’ll be glad you did.
Gift #5: As for me, I’d tell you that I want to write about you and your story next, of courage, faith and hope in the face of atrocious war. Of a refugee and underdog who turned bookselling into a master craft. So many people will have seeds of faith planted deep within, because you lived out such a story on this earth.
Dad, you would be glad to receive such gifts, especially from the kids.
Maybe you have received these gifts already, in some celestial way we don’t understand, and won’t understand until we see you–and our claiming, rescuing Father–face to face.
Maybe you’ve heard the music of one grandchild, and bragged to Johnny Cash about him. Or nudged Rembrandt to look at another grandson’s charcoal drawings. (“Take a look at that detail! Well, his middle name is “Brandt” after all…”)
I don’t know who’s with you there in terms of soccer players, but I wonder if you’ve dragged these folk to some close-by but unseen spot beyond the veil to watch a little black haired goalie make some crazy saves.
I would give anything to even wave at you from across the field.
Regardless if you can see us or not, we have kept you in our hearts these nine years.
And even if we can’t give you our gifts face to face, somehow, just by doing what we have been put on this earth to do, we are honoring you. And that’s the best Father’s Day gift we can give, from us to you, from this life to the next.