Friday, June 18, 2010

Father's Day

My Friday Briefing column:

This week I survived another "first" in my grief journey. I helped my son shop for a Father's Day card – but only for Papa, not for Daddy, who died nine months ago.

As we stared at the mass of cards in our neighborhood Hallmark store, I was thankful for the greeting card industry's hyper-specific labeling: for Daddy from all the kids, for Daddy from daughter, for someone who's like a dad, for Grandfather. We could easily identify which cards to avoid.

We scooted out of there as quickly as possible, and I started breathing normally again. And I resumed my internal brainstorming on how to honor the best father for my children.

Though we can't hand-deliver a card to Steve this Sunday, there's no question that Cooper, Katie and I will wish him a happy Father's Day. We'll just do it differently than we ever have before.

A close friend who lost her father when she was 12 suggested that we listen to some of Steve's favorite songs that day. Since then I've been compiling a playlist in my head that reflects Steve's eclectic taste in music – ZZ Top, George Gershwin, M.I.A., Aaron Copland, Coldplay, Radiohead, the Dixie Chicks, Joe Jackson, the Northern Pikes.

We'll also tell Steve stories. Katie especially loves tales of peril – when Steve flew off a swing face first into gravel, when he threw up just before leaving for sleep-away camp.

Both children love to reminisce about happy Steve times. On Sunday, we'll probably relive favorite vacations and birthday parties. We'll talk about the books he loved to read them at night. (He had the perfect cadence and intonation for all the Skippyjon Jones books.)

We'll try to imitate his exaggerated German accent, one of his surefire ways to draw a laugh at the dinner table. We'll talk about how much he loved going to Cooper's soccer games and how he wished he could have watched Katie play.

I'll tell them that on the day he became a father for the first time, almost nine years ago, he held his son and cried. He did the same four years later with baby Katie.

I also plan to share with our children one of my favorite quotes.

Catholic priest and former Notre Dame president Theodore Hesburgh said, "The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."

Steve's greatest gift was his love.

When we were first married, I would sometimes think I was unworthy of such strong love and adoration. With time, I realized that every human is worthy of the kind of devoted, unselfish, all-encompassing love I received from Steve – I was just fortunate enough to have found it.

And our children were blessed to have received a lifetime of love from their daddy in just a few short years.

Lately, our dinner conversations have turned to what kind of spouses the children will look for when they're adults.

Cooper says he'll look for a future bride who is nice, can cook well, likes to take care of children, knows the difference between a real diamond and a fake diamond and "isn't too fancy."

Katie says she wants a husband who has good manners and is kind and compassionate. "Someone just like Daddy."

I couldn't ask for anything better.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. E-mail her at

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