It´s Spanish Father’s Day today. Or San Jose´ day (Day of Saint Joseph). In honour of the father of Jesus. It’s a big deal in Spain and a bank holiday for Valencia. Nothing is open, except cafes.
We took a walk in the early morning, and there was no one on the street. All the residents have been warned that this is a critical time not to mix with each other. Getting together with others to celebrate could unleash a fourth wave that would prove deadly. And with Easter fast on it’s heels we need to be extra cautious.
We celebrate Spanish Father’s Day, rather than the one in the US. Not that it matters anymore. Jeff hasn’t seen his Dad in years, and that was after decades of estrangement. So he’s not missing out. My Dad passed in 2020, so he won’t be missing me on US Father’s Day. I’ve thought about him a lot over the past year. Especially, at times when I’ve been very afraid during serious illness. I would refer to it as quiet grieving. Or perhaps, processing would be a better word.
I watch fathers here in Valencia with their children and I see something I never had growing up. Parents here seem so connected to their kids. So present and so proud. This week, all the kids are out of school in honour of what should have been Fallas. So many Dads took the week off and are biking and playing futbol in the park with their kids. Or just walking with them as they ride their little scooters. The kids are yelling and unruly and the Dad’s are patient, never scolding – often laughing right along with them. A wonderful sound.
On Father’s Day of past years, when I would go to purchase a card to send my Dad, I had a difficult time. So many had messages emblazoned with ‘#1 DAD!!’ or ‘To the finest Father in the World’. But my Dad and I knew each other well. If I had sent him something like that he wouldn’t have liked it. Insincere. He knew he had been none of those things. Quite the opposite. I usually bought a blank card and filled it in. ‘Hope you have a great Father´s Day!’ That’s all the sentiment I could muster.
This last year has given me long stretches of quiet reflection during recovery. And I’ve gotten some much needed assistance and perspective from my amazing British therapist via Zoom to help me with my post-Covid anxiety and PTSD. It’s in those sessions, Simon has helped me process some of the loss around my Dad’s death. And he’s helped me understand the complexity of my feelings surrounding it, and how it’s impacting my healing.
It turns out, you can love someone who never earned it. You can see past the monstrous behaviour, and learn forgive the monster, without becoming one yourself. And doing that isn’t about absolving the person of what they did. It’s about letting it go. Both for yourself and them.
In our house growing up, I learned an important lesson. How NOT to parent my children. And I can acknowledge the value of every one of those lessons. But, as an adult, I must also acknowledge that my Dad never interfered with the decisions I made. The man who was so dissatisfied with me as a child, never pointed out mistakes I made with my kids, nor tried to butt in with his two cents every time I turned around. He was there, but he was acutely aware it wasn’t his show, and he had no credibility in that arena. We both knew that. I can admire the lack of hypocrisy. There is honour in that, somewhere.
At the end of his life, I know my Dad was proud of my brother, Todd, and me. Not for our accomplishments. And we’ve had a few. But because we had chutzpa. Both of us. In spite of him, we learned to thrive. We took no prisoners and we asked for no one’s permission. We went after what we wanted and didn’t take ‘No’ for an answer. And, if I’m honest, we learned that from our Dad, more than anyone. Even though he was more of a Bull in a China Shop, he was never afraid of change, or taking a risk.
I think back on my Father on this Father’s Day, and I’m no longer sad for all the trauma of the past. Or for his passing. I don’t miss him in the way I imagine most people with normal Fathers do. But I sit here today and I can remember the past gently. Taking the good from the bad. I no longer mourn what never was, and can smile a little when I think of him. Perhaps, I’ve found a bit of grace, for now, and that’s good enough.