Sunday is my final Father’s Day.
That may seem like a weird thing to say, but it’s effectively true. We’re moving to Ohio next week, and that’s going to change the dynamic in our house. My daughter is moving with us for the school year, but she’ll be spending summers with her mom, meaning she’ll be in Kansas on Father’s Day every year from henceforth.
Meanwhile, my stepchildren’s father insisted they be with him on Father’s Day, so every year, they’ll also be back in Kansas on the third Sunday of June.
Thus, I’ll effectively be an empty-nester on Father’s Day from now on.
It’s hard to know how to feel about this. Father’s Day has always been a surreal experience for me. I adopted my daughter when she was six. Her first Father’s Day see took me to see Madagascar — a children’s film I enjoyed well enough but that I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing (which conjured memories of taking my own dad to see Ghostbusters in 1984).
Our relationship grew rocky over time, and we have only recently begun repairing it. Thus, Father’s Day was always forced. We both felt like something was supposed to happen when we’d get together, but neither of really knew what it was or how to do it. This year, despite things having improved somewhat, she’s angry with me for moving her to Ohio and insists she isn’t going. So we’re very likely to repeat our annual dance of awkwardly going through the motions, of trying to know what you’re supposed to do on Father’s Day.
Things have been just as uncomfortable with the stepchildren. In their case, it’s out of a sense of loyalty. They already had a dad before I came along. So even though I am the male they live with 12 days out of every 14 (and soon more), the one who parents them, takes an interest in what they like, and helps them grow into the adults they want to be, they don’t wish me a happy Father’s Day. They don’t buy me a card or give me a present.
And I understand. They don’t want to be disloyal to their father, the man my stepson once made certain I understood was his “real dad.”
So it’s not like Father’s Day has really been all that great for me. You see all the ads for how you want to show your appreciation for everything Dad is and does, but I’ve never had a Father’s Day that went anything like that.
Perhaps then, it’ll be a relief when there are no more Father’s Days. I won’t have to smile and accept and think about everyone else’s feelings while keeping a firm lock on my own. Maybe this year’s “grand” finale will be a good thing.
Being a parent is a largely thankless job. You have to take your joy, your rewards, your love from your children at an angle. They don’t straight up thank you for everything you do for them. Maybe if they get to be graduation speaker, they’ll thank you publicly then, although they’re just as likely to thank that important teacher who inspired them. Or if they win an Oscar they might include you in the thanks with their manager and the other people who worked on the movie. Or if they score a touchdown in a big game, they’ll say, “Hi, Mom!” to the camera.
And that’s okay. It is the way of things. I only ever rarely expressed any direct gratitude to my own parents.
But I feel a certain emptiness knowing one of the days artificially set aside for some acknowledgement, however subtle, will be gone after Sunday. Maybe that makes me self-centered.
I hope it only means I’m human.