Happy Father’s Day. I just hung up after giving you a call. The first time I called you didn’t answer. I’d forgotten that it’s a Sunday and you’d be at mass.
When you answered, you sounded confused. It took you a minute to place me. And I couldn’t help but feel the now-familiar tug of tightness in the back of my throat up into the roof of my mouth, the tightness that comes when you’re on the cusp of forgetting me. But you always manage to find me, and I manage to push through the tightness until it fades.
I wished you a happy Father’s Day, and you started laughing. You laughed and laughed, and then you said, “Oh, how long have they done that now?”
“Done what, Dad?”
“Father—Father’s Days. How long have those been around?”
“Oh, gosh, I don’t know. A long time, I think.”
You laughed again. “First there was Christmas, and now there’s this.” A fresh bout of chuckles sounded through the phone. Then you said, “You’re sweet to remember that. You always were sweet like that.”
It never fails. Every conversation you say something that catches me by surprise. A minute before I’d worried you couldn’t remember me, and now you spoke about me as if you remembered everything.
What do you remember, and what have you forgotten? How do you know I’m sweet if you don’t know who I am? Is it possible for both to exist, side by side, inside your mind?
You asked what I’ve been up to, and I told you about my short story. “Nothing could come of it,” I said. “But I’m enjoying it, and that’s what matters.”
“You keep doing that,” you replied. “You never know what will happen. No, I’m serious. You never know.”
Here you are, on Father’s Day, a day I’m supposed to thank you for everything you’ve done for me—an impossible task, really, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try—and instead you’re filling me up with hope and encouragement.
You went on to tell me a five-minute-long story about a cartoonist for The New Yorker, about perseverance and a dash of luck and circumstance. You couldn’t remember all the details or all the words, but listening to you tell the story of this cartoonist’s success was sweet beyond measure. The happiness in your voice, the encouraging tone.
I should’ve been thanking you for everything you’d done for me over the years, and instead I got lost in the moment, soaking up one more of your stories (you love to tell stories, Dad, you really do).
You would’ve thought it was old times again, the way we chatted. And then you were tired, and we said goodbye. I hung up the phone with your words ringing in my ears.
You never know what will happen.
A million thank you’s, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.