I have this childhood memory of walking with my father through a crowded, smoke-filled room.
I was very young and apparently the only child in the place.
While my subconscious keeps telling me it was a bar, I find it hard to believe my dad would ever bring me into a saloon at that tender age.
Wherever it was, we got separated and all of a sudden I was alone in a sea of towering adults. I was so small I couldn’t see any faces, just bodies.
Frightened, I grabbed at the nearest sleeve, looked up and said “Daddy!”
Only it wasn’t Daddy. It was a total stranger looking down at me. He laughed and it seemed like everyone in the room joined him. And I was more frightened than ever.
My father found me seconds later and we walked out together. I’m wondering now who that man was and what he must have thought when some strange kid grabbed his sleeve.
Of course the irony here is as I got older, life got harder and my relationship with my father became strained. I stopped looking for Daddy and started looking to escape.
My father couldn’t accept the fact that his children were growing up and that we didn’t need to hold his hand anymore. I only wish I could’ve figured that out while he was still alive. It might have made both our lives a little easier.
That memory came back to me only recently following a phone conversation I had with my sister.
“I’m going to church today,” she told me one morning while I was at work.
Today’s the Day…
I searched my mind for any holy days of obligation on the Catholic calendar and drew a blank.
“What for?” I asked.
“It’s the anniversary of Dad’s death.”
I felt this chill come over me. It was indeed the seventh anniversary of our father’s death and I had completely forgotten it.
I know this never would’ve happened with my mother. I can sense the anniversary of her passing coming closer as we come into July. I think I would know that day even if I didn’t have a calendar. Or at least I like to think so.
What kind of son would forget the day his father died?
I had a particularly bad day at the office, where I could do absolutely nothing right, and I was sure I was being punished for my thoughtlessness.
And just to drive the message home, one of my coworkers had left his coffee mug by the men’s room door, placing it so I could see the cutely simple drawing of man in a tie standing above the word “Father.”
Whoever had left the mug there forgot to come back for it so I had to see the thing every time I went to the can.
Okay, I thought late in the day, I get it. I’m a rotten son. Now please take your goddamn mug before I smash it to pieces.
I didn’t go to church that day. I tried to atone for my sins on Facebook by writing a tribute to my father as if I had planned to do it all along.
I can’t do undo the past; I can’t go back in time and make things better between us. But I’m thankful he was there to lead me out of smoky rooms.