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What It's Like To Celebrate Father's Day Without A Father

You learn a hard truth and an even harder lesson when your father succumbs to a heart attack before you get the chance to say, 'There's still so much we needed to talk about.'
PHOTO: Pixabay

I wish I could say it was easy. I wish I could say that I didn’t really care. And the truth is, for me, Father’s Day actually starts just like any other day—and that’s the sad part.

I wake up, grab my phone, and scroll through social media, admiring the countless posts and status updates of friends and friends of friends exalting their dear old pops for being the “best dad ever.”

There’s a sobering feeling of melancholy every time, both heartwarming and jealousy inducing in its intensity.

Anyone who has lost a father knows this all too well: on Father’s Day, a pit of longing manifests in your gut, prodding you into wishing you could express your love for the man who raised you without having to attach the letters “R.I.P.” at the end of your message.

My dad has been dead for six years now and it’s still difficult to navigate that specific Sunday morning that happens only once a year, accepting the fact that there’ll be no need to prepare for family lunch at a restaurant. Or buy a handkerchief, a necktie, or a boring old pair of socks to gift wrap in an effort to show a sense of appreciation. Instead, the afternoon could be spent in the cemetery, swapping stories and anecdotes with similarly jaded siblings.

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Some might call it morbid, depressing even, but I’ve come to call it just another Father’s Day.

I’d like to think that I’ve been vigilant in visiting my dad at his resting place on this special occasion, but then I’d just be lying to myself. It’s okay. He wasn’t very religious or sappy anyway.

Thoughts of him often come back, however, when I witness how other people interact with their own fathers. In glasses of whiskey shared as advice is passed from one generation to the next, the comforting smell of cigarette smoke left lingering in the air, The Beach Boys playing in the background. In weekend meals laid out for the sole purpose of checking in on one another, simple questions like “Kamusta ka, anak?” washing away any misery with six comforting syllables. And in hugs and in handshakes and in hearty laughs—exchanges I know I had taken for granted myself, once upon a time.          

Nowadays, I always try to show and tell those who are important in my life just how much they mean to me. You learn a hard truth and an even harder lesson when your father succumbs to a heart attack before you even get the chance to say, “There’s still so much we needed to talk about.”

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That truth and that lesson: life’s too short and that was the one shot you had.

So this Father’s Day, give your dad that hug and that handshake and that hearty laugh his corny joke doesn’t deserve. Share a beer, a glass of whiskey, or if you two are in the mood, steal away into the night by killing the whole bottle with him. And if you’re treating him to dinner this time around, eat well, and don’t forget to share stories right after. Say, “I love you.” Then say it again and again and again till he’s sick of hearing it. Trust, he won’t. Be grateful that you have a father—a dad, a pops, a man you can look up to. Because, whether you like it or not, one day, you won’t. And that’s when Father’s Day will take on a whole new meaning.

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