Today I was sad. Unexpectedly sad.
It’s Father’s Day. Dad died 8 years ago … so there have been other Father’s Days … but this one has caught me by surprise.
Grief is like that … sometimes you can anticipate the difficult days and plan for them … but other days the rug just gets pulled from under your feet and you find yourself free falling without a safety net. Trying to grab something that will break your fall … but finding nothing in your grasp that holds.
‘Special days’ often pass me by … Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter Sunday, Father’s Day, New Year’s Eve … days which are marked as ‘special‘ on the pre-printed calendar that hangs on the wall. Days where we feel we ‘should‘ do something.
For some, these are days of great anticipation … eager expectation … with invitations offered to gather together for celebrations to be shared.
For me … living and working in a hotel … these ‘special’ days were ones where we worked whilst they played!
It was all about making their ‘special’ day … special. And we, in return, would collapse in an exhausted, but satisfied, heap … the months of preparation had paid off … the day had gone well … customers were happy … and would hopefully choose us for their next ‘special’ day.
Even years after I had moved away from home, these remained days for other people … there would be no point in phoning home until late into the night … when the celebrations were done and the parties were over … naps on the sofa had been taken … and late night dinners eaten. The conversations would be tired, exhausted and centred around those other people’s special day.
Marking these ‘special’ days, for our own use, wasn’t really a thing. Apart from Christmas … we shut the doors of the hotel every year and did Christmas for us! [We did also pretty much take over the whole hotel for our wedding … but that’s a different story!]
What then, is this strange sadness I feel this year … this Father’s Day? This unfamiliar … uncomfortable … unwelcome feeling.
I am not my father’s daughter … in the card sending, telephone calling, way that I used to be. That’s not new a new feeling … that has become familiar … some years I have even bought myself a Father’s Day present as a “Yes, I miss him terribly, but I can still celebrate him” kind of thing!
The hotel is closed in lockdown … so this year there are no celebrations, for other people, being hosted there.
Our church building is closed in lockdown … there are no gatherings … no understanding, exchanged, glances … no hugs between those who share the pain of loss … no church family meal for me to cook to distract myself with.
Today I can still observe other people’s marking of this ‘special’ day on the calendar … celebrating dads that are alive … remembering dads who aren’t … dads themselves celebrating being dads … families ‘gathering’ in group chats … and somewhere in the mix of all of that space to be mindful of those who had absent or abusive dads.
It is also Father’s Day in my house … and a great dad lives here … but it feels like ‘not my party’ to organise … but there is a pull in me to do that … or a need to do that … to want to step in … to make it mine … to want it to look like what I think it should look like. But it isn’t mine to host and I shouldn’t try.
So, today, I feel like I am free falling … without an identity to grasp, or a distraction to hold, that would help break my fall.
This year, for the first time ever, this is a really painful place … without the familiar tools to ground myself.
This year, perhaps I am like a bird who has had its wings clipped and hasn’t been able to glide the same way through shifting air currents.
Photo: SarahLou Photography
Free fall is unfamiliar … uncomfortable … unexpected … and my eyes keep ‘leaking’ where I don’t want them to. Yet I know it is normal!
‘There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.’ Ecclesiastes 3:1,4
Perhaps also a time to free fall and a time to glide!