By Kelsey Bright
This is my first Father’s Day without my father. I will admit to studiously avoiding the calendar in hopes that this day wouldn’t come, but here it is. Father’s Day was always the start of summer for me. My dad and his wife, Peg, would make the journey from Albuquerque to the East Coast. His family’s camp is in Sutton, Massachusetts, and anyone from that part of the country knows exactly what this means. Known only as, “Camp,” this loose collection of cabins on a small lake has been in my father’s family for over 100 years. Conversations between siblings and cousins inevitably circle back to Camp. When are you going? Who was there? How was the weather? Just as I’ve never known a Father’s Day without my father, I’ve never been to Camp without him. I always thought we’d have more time, says EVERYONE who has ever lost a loved one. I’m not naïve; at 82, I knew what lay ahead for him, but somehow, I really still believed we had more time as well.
With an aging parent half a country away, a voice in the back of my head would occasionally warn me that a phone call from Peg was coming. I feared that the flu, a multitude of potential problems with his heart, a stroke, pneumonia, or some other cunning foe poised to attack someone his age would soon visit him. I thought, when I get the call, I will fly out and if he’s still doing ok, I will fly out often to see him. You see, I thought we had more time. The idea was, I fly out, and while he may have slowed down, he’s still with me and we would hold hands out on the patio in their beautiful garden. We would reminisce about trips or he would re-tell stories of a somewhat questionable youth. I long to hear the stories again because I’m only half remembering them now. It seemed like there was more time to hear the stories again and again, like children want. That was going to be my life for whatever time God allotted to us—me flying out to visit, holding hands, and listening to his stories.
The whole “there’s no time” idea seemed so trite. Everyone talks about how they are pinched for time, and I’ve read article after article where the author is lamenting the fact that time had run out. Apparently, I was unable to understand what those authors were trying to tell me. I would skim the article and think, “blah, blah, I hear you, hold your loved one close, tell them you love them, yeah, I hear you.” However, I did not hear their wisdom and I find myself writing the same trite words, I thought we’d have more time. When my friends would share their pain from the loss of a parent and how they wished they had more time, I would think, well, that’s certainly sad, but that was the extent of my feelings. I was far too cavalier with what they were trying to tell me.
On this, my first Fatherless Day, with the weight of an elephant crushing my chest and tears blurring my vision, I can confirm that those authors were right, and are all left wishing for more time. A wish for me, that can never be granted.
Kelsey lost her father unexpectedly last summer on the very last evening of a beautiful week spent at Camp with her father and their family. Tom is greatly missed.