Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Importance of Fathers

My daughter and I are both mourning the losses of fathers today.

For me, it's the death of my father --somewhat unexpected -- in April, a loss that still doesn't always feel real.

For my daughter, it's the absence of her birthfather, a man she doesn't know and perhaps may never know.

We know very little about Ashley's birthfather. We know his name and his age, but Ashley's questions go far beyond that: Where does he live? What's his favorite color? Does he know about me?

This week has been especially difficult. On Thursday evening, she sobbed hard and long because she wouldn't be able to give her birthfather a Father's Day present.

As her dad and I held her while she cried, I couldn't help but think both how similar and how different our grief is.

Like Ashley, Father's Day is hard for me this year. Ads, overheard conversations about Father's Day plans, even taking Ashley shopping to get gifts and cards for her dad all make the loss of my dad real and immediate.

But unlike Ashley, I am mourning a relationship that has lots of memories and few unanswered questions. I don't have to wonder about my dad or who he was. I don't have to question my role in his life.

Unanswered questions are hard, and so I know Ashley will struggle in her own separate way.

But today, we will both be finding ways to honor fathers who aren't with us, to acknowledge that even when they're not around, dads are pretty important people.

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