My uncle is in the end stages of ALS and was moved into comfort care this week. Though my dad has four daughters, the family he created with my mom, he’s said it’s a lonely feeling to be losing the last remaining member of his original family. At 67 years old, my dad’s even used the word orphan to describe his new life. His mom died 25 years ago; his father passed in 2006 and his older sister, at just 4 years old, succumbed to polio when my father was 2. His younger brother was born shortly thereafter.
My sisters, mom and I have thrown around a lot of dramatic words over the years while my dad sat on the sidelines watching us describe our joys, fears and irritations. We even laugh at the time all the girls in the family (and even our maternal grandma who lived with us) sat at the dinner table and described what was going on in a soap opera with such conviction my father’s head volleyed back and forth until he finally asked, “How do you know Bo and Hope?”
Like my husband now, my dad just wants to catch the end of the game. Instead of luxury vacations, he took four daughters tent camping and taught each of us how to change our own oil. We spent summers out on the delta water skiing because of him. In the winters he’d get up before dawn to take us snow skiing and drive back again the same day. Once I became a parent, he told me he planned family activities to be the adhesive that kept four girls from drifting away during the teenage years. He was right.
Once a year my dad hosts a football party with his sons-in-law and grandsons. If we were ever in a pinch, a granddaughter could certainly go, but we’ve all wanted to see it be a “no girls allowed” event for him, and it has. After all, he never expects to be invited to our many showers and other girly get-togethers.
My dad’s birthday even falls on Mother’s Day once every six years and he’s never pulled rank.
Sonora Smart Dodd is the one who chose to celebrate Father’s Day in June because it was her father’s birth month. Dodd lived in Spokane, Wash., and officially proposed a national holiday for fathers in 1909, wanting to honor her own father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran and farmer who’d been widowed and left to raise six children.
The first Father’s Day celebration was held in June of 1910. In 1972 President Nixon finally declared the third Sunday in June a national public holiday.
Florists, greeting card makers, telephone companies and restaurants say their biggest profits of the year are on Mother’s Day. I’m always stumped what to get my husband, father and father-in-law after being treated so nicely the month before. I tell my husband he can do anything he wants on his special day too, just as we’ve always told my dad. When our kids were babies he was happy if he didn’t have to change a dirty diaper. Now all he wants to do is go for a run and then work in the yard. When I was a child my dad always chose to have his parents over to barbecue on Father’s Day. I think many men are the same.
So this year, thinking of all he’s lost, I wanted to make sure the holiday is extra special to my dad, only to be informed several months ago he’d “forgotten about Father’s Day, honey,” and would be off to Alaska instead.
Julie Samrick is an El Dorado Hills resident and mother of four children.