Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Happy Father’s Day

If there is one thing in my life that I will say defines it, it is Fatherhood. All I have ever wanted to be, was a Dad. Along the way, I have been challenged in the most extreme ways from cancer to divorce, but nothing has stood in the way of the unconditional and never-ending love of my children. My daughters are the reasons behind every decision that I make, and the drive to keep moving forward.

Historically, prior to the arrival of my daughters, Father’s Day was just another day in June.

This is one of three photos that I possess with my father from childhood, none occurred on or around Father’s Day. In fact, I do not remember spending any time with my father for Father’s Day. To be clear, this was his decision, a result of the divorce from my mother. Another reason for my sadness of Father’s day, my grandmother passed away the week before Father’s Day in 1998. And then, my Father was memorialized on Father’s Day weekend in 2014 after passing from the effects of lung cancer. Admittedly, this was something that I requested.

Even with my daughters, Father’s Day seemed to take a back seat, as with other holidays, because I was expected to work. I had a 40-hour/week job, but if offered overtime, so I was expected to work it, even on Father’s Day, the one day that should have been about me with my daughters. I was supposed to just be grateful for the few hours I had to spend with them once I got home from work.

To be clear, there is no one more important to me, than my daughters. When faced with emergency open heart surgery back in 2008 due to late effects from the treatments that cured me of my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, it was the fear of never seeing them again, them having the possibility of experiencing what one of their close friends experienced, losing a parent, that really pulled me through.

Unlike my father, I was there for my daughters for Father’s Day, with the exception of three, two of those were beyond my control, and the other was purely for everyone’s health and well being. A process with my divorce led me to miss two Father’s Days. And in 2020, Covid19 and all the uncertainties left me no other choice, than to keep my daughters safe, and that meant not having them travel to see me. Those three years, came and went, each time, leaving me with a broken heart, no other options available.

But just after the last time that I missed spending time with my daughters for Father’s Day, I made sure that they knew every Father’s Day, they are my priority. They are the reason I wake up every day. They are the reason I look forward to every tomorrow.

This Father’s Day is more than just having lost last year’s time together. For years, I have had friends prepare me for the time when my daughters would get older, and the likelihood that visits with them would be less frequent because they had their own things to do a la Harry Chapin’s “Cats In The Cradle”. In all honesty, for my one friend, he got much less years than I have in regard to that situation. My daughters know how important Father’s Day is to me, as important if not more than, our visit at Christmas. Father’s Day is the day, I get to celebrate and cherish all of the memories from the thousands of photos I have taken of my daughters over the years, opportunities that have lessened from the demands of the teenagers.

My daughters have a biological father, somewhere. But I am the only Father they know. And whether they are six, eighteen, or forty two, they know I will always expect this day to be ours, together.

Yes, their mother and I are divorced, and unlike my Father, I made the conscious decision, to stay in their lives, to be active in their school and interests, to be one of their two main role models, to guide them with their decisions toward their future. Each and every day, I make an attempt to reach them, through various means from phone, to Facetime, to text, a reminder that every day to them, that I am thinking about them. That I miss them. That I love them.

There are so many fathers that I do hear from, that for any reason, are not getting that opportunity this year, perhaps for several years now. For some, it is their first year without either their children, or their father. My heart breaks for them, because I understand the many different issues surrounding the emptiness of this holiday as an adult child of divorce, a divorced parent, as well as someone who lost their father.

The time with each other is only temporary. It can be a few years, or decades. But it is only temporary. That is why it is important every year, on this day, you celebrate if you are able to still do so with each other. And if you are in the unfortunate situation, having been alienated from your father or from your children, you DO NOT EVER give up! Time will heal. I got that chance to do that with my father before it was too late.

I do not know what Father’s Day will look like in 2022. But after having lost Father’s Day last year due to Covid19, this year will be more special than ever to me and my daughters.

Needless to say, as few photos there are of my father and I, my daughters will never have that problem.

Happy Father’s Day.

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