It must be an unwritten law that Fathers Day cards start showing up on shelves after 5:01 p.m. on Mother’s Day. They are on display everywhere—even at the gas station. (They’re on the counter right next to the jerky and energy shots.)
But I no longer pay much attention because I no longer buy the cards. My Dad has been gone for several years.
Fathers Day 2012: The last Fathers Day with my Dad
The last time I saw my Dad was Father’s Day weekend 2012, and I wondered if I’d see him again. His health was failing and he’d retired his beloved golf clubs a few years earlier. He’d given up coffee—his beverage of choice—and now drank milk. It was just a matter of time.
I had written down the things I most need to tell him before he died. That my sister, brother and I would take good care of Mom so he didn’t need to worry about her. That I loved him very much. Most of all, I wish I’d been a better daughter. I read him a little non-rhyming poem about Heaven and told him I knew, that I knew, that I knew I’d see him there someday.
I wish I'd been a better daughter
I drove away that weekend, grateful that I'd been able to tell him I loved him. Then I started making a mental list of every unkind deed I'd ever done and and word I’d ever said that I wished I could take back. Like the time I told him I hated him for making me eat cooked carrots. Lists like this are a slippery slope into a sea of regret, not to mention tears, and while that may sound poetic, it’s not really something I’d want to put on a greeting card.
That was six years ago.
Now, every year as Fathers Day approaches, I focus on the best advice he ever gave me.
My Dad's best advice
I was a sophomore in high school and facing an agonizing decision about my decidedly first-world problem: Should I stay in marching band? I didn’t like rehearsals; I didn’t like the red and white uniform. The hat was too small and gave me a headache. The only reason I stayed in band was because I coveted a band jacket. The fact that I had no musical ability whatsoever didn’t enter into the decision.
Rather than focus on my obvious lack of musical talent, my dad asked me, “How important will a band jacket be to you in 10 years?” I quickly tried to visualize myself as a 26-year-old wearing a band jacket and realized how not cool that would be. Just like that, my dilemma was solved. I dropped band the next day.
To this day, when faced with decisions, I ask myself: How important will this be in 10 years? (Or five or even two?) It’s advice that still serves me well.
I only wish I could send my Dad a card to thank him.