Reflections on Fathers’ Day

Growing up, I hated Fathers’ Day. My father was diagnosed with stomach cancer when I was two months old, and he died when I was three. I felt it really did not pertain to me. The whole American take on it—BBQ, scotch, golf—was utterly irrelevant.

In elementary school, there was an annual Father-Daughter dinner that I found insulting. Of course, this was long before political correctness and an awareness of different family structures came into consciousness, particularly in schools. I went with a friend and her father once or twice, but I remember distinctly feeling like a charity case.

As I grew into adulthood, I realized that my mother was really playing both roles—bearing the entire burden of raising me. And sometimes I could sense the weight of the burden on her. So often she seemed anxious, stressed, overwhelmed. My father’s absence was a cause of significant challenges in our relationship as she often felt utterly alone, and she grasped at me for support that, as a daughter, I could not give. I was not her partner. We spoke of this later in life, when we finally reached a point when she could be honest and put words to her sense of isolation.

Later in adulthood I was better equipped emotionally to stand by her, be a friend. In fact she would often say how I sounded like him, sometimes verbatim, when I was pontificating on some point.

When I was in the Acores a few years ago I met a cousin for the first time. His mother was my father’s sister (follow?). He was old enough to remember my father before he moved to the United States. It was great to talk to someone who remembered him. My father was adventurous, entrepreneurial, philosophical and a great storyteller. Everyone on the island knew him and respected him. He was also someone who did not mind saying what he felt, and acting on it.

Of course, both she and my father are in me.

At my mother’s memorial recently, I read this poem as a dedication to both of them.

From nothingness, from the play of molecules

in evolution,

pass through countless generations, tokens of

vitality and form, my seed atoms came from you.

Carried on a wave of chance, coincidence

and hidden necessity,

my portion of cosmic dust passed through you.

I am awed by the miracle at each step

that leads to my being. Yet here I am!

And so, you are.

I am the messenger of my father and mother,

a conduit for your future, and through this

you live in me.

Not just the stuff of your genes, but the stuff

of your dreams, too.

For as I feel the years imprint their inevitable marks

on my skin,

I look more honestly and clearly into my soul

and see you.

I feel your fears and sorrows in my chest, caught in

the intake of my breath, thumping in my heart;

I feel your cherished joys pumping through my veins

when I hear a favorite song,

after I’ve run along my Skyline,

when I look out on the waves, or face the sun

and feel it warm my smile.

If I’m quiet and still enough, I can feel you

living through me.

I recognize your spirit stirring memories,

emotions and desires.

Sometimes I look out on my world as if my eyes

are windows on our common soul.

I share this with you in gratitude and love.

Always.

–Christian de Quincey

 

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