Father’s Day for the fatherless: ‘I’m devastated about all the things he didn’t get to do… all the little faces he never met’
20th Jun 2021
Amanda Cassidy on love and loss this Father’s Day weekend…
The last Christmas we spent together was like all those that came before it. We bickered over the Milk Tray, teased my sister about her love life and got slippers for dad, again. We stretched out on the couch in front of the fire, full of turkey and cheese and joy and just enjoyed being together – in our own quirky, chaotic way.
Later, the same night, my sister got engaged. Four nights later, my father died.
The shock of death is a very strange thing. The shock of death that comes just after extreme joy is even more tumultuous. In the fog of sleep, the shouts in the night are quite similar to the shouts of joy. But the party was over. My sister’s ring sparkled spitefully as she pumped my father’s chest in vain. The paramedics sliced the decorative holly that wound up the stairs in order to get the plastic stretcher down. I remember the sadness on their faces.
“I welcome the chance to feel sad about all the things he didn’t get to do. All the songs he didn’t get to sing.”
We buried him on a wet New Year’s day under a rainbow. I wondered if he was the only one sleeping in the graveyard wearing Rudolf slippers.
Father’s Day is bittersweet. A reminder of what you don’t have. I throw myself into helping the children make cards for their own dad. Glitter and paper hearts, sticky glue and millions of pencil smudged kisses. I spent time telling them stories of their granddad and how he loved to sing. I hum his song. Yes, the tears still spring up. Good. It is many years since he died but the grief still comes easy.
I welcome the chance to feel sad about all the things he didn’t get to do, the little faces who would have loved him so much.
After the rain
Anger comes too. It is underrated when it comes to grief. My father dead at 59 made me furious. I knew, too, that he would be angry at himself for dying – upset that brothers had to walk sisters down aisles. Anger is an easier one to deal with than the piercing ache of sadness.
So we spent our first few Father’s Days and birthdays without him, seething with the unfairness of the world. Naturally, that level of rage is hard to maintain, but I flogged it along until two things happened. The first was the birth of the first grandchild – my sister’s daughter, my niece. It is a cliché to say that the joy of birth heals the pain of death, but it is often the truth.
This tiny scrumptious scrap reminded us that the world isn’t always a class-A bitch that steals joy. Sometimes it can be quite unpredictably lovely. Sometimes it can belch out a mewling beauty with warm velvety hands that reach for your face.
More importantly, her birth reminded us to be happy again.
The second wasn’t as romantic. Sometimes there are worse things than death, and in our case, we had to stop feeling sorry for ourselves and start to help someone who wasn’t doing too good. Fresh worry replaced anger and self-pity, and as unpleasant as that was, sometimes you need a less-than-glorious reminder that life goes on in all its clunky vastness.
Slowly, life evolved. It went from leaving an empty seat at the table to honour my father, to a sticky toddler stashing carrots under his cushion. Then some more tiny humans joined our family, some of them even mine.
Now we were no longer children grieving for our father, we were mothers and fathers determined to give our little ones the best memories possible. Father’s Day is now about them face-planting on their dad in bed on a Sunday morning in June with hand-picked flowers, paper cards and tight hugs.
I recreate the good things and I hold close the not-so-good things because that’s all part of my patchwork life. Instead of being haunted by Father’s Day and other special dad-shaped times, I treasure the memories and I still hum his song.
Every year around now, I still allow myself to feel desperately sad that he missed out on so much – all the weddings, all the births, all the Father’s Days, and most of all, his grandchildren who proudly don their Christmas slippers all year round and who shout ‘Hi Grandad’ at rainbows.
We have prioritised the reopening of non-essential industries and ignored reinstating essential support at the most basic human level. We...
We all know how important a good night’s sleep is for our health. When we get enough (adults should be...
Eimear Ryan: ‘Girls who play sport are forced to show that despite their unfortunate competitive streak, they’re still feminine girly girls’
While women are sometimes forgotten about in the GAA story, camogie player Eimear Ryan argues that the sport gives women...
As her identical twin grapples with first-time motherhood, Jennifer McShane feels her biological clock ticking louder than ever and finds...
Have you felt your sleeping pattern affected during Covid? Us too. Use these tips to help you get back on...
‘Nothing prepares you for the yearning that comes when you want to have a baby at a later stage of life’
Does fertility ‘fall off a cliff’ as you enter your fifth decade? And what does that mean for your baby...