Day of the Daddy

"I miss Daddy."
- Ian, pretty much every day the last few weeks


We talked about how I miss him too. We talked about how having him back with cancer would be cruel because he was in pain. We talked about how having him back without cancer is impossible. I don't try to fix it because there's not really anything to fix. It just is. I listen. 

"I get one less holiday than everyone else because my dad's dead."
- Ian, last year around Father's Day and again last night

He's been sleeping with me every couple days. Usually he shows up around 2am with some complicated story about how the dog is hogging the covers. I just tell him to stop talking and get in the bed. Then he squirms and digs and snores all night. But he sleeps. He woke up in pretty good spirits this morning. First thing he said as he opened his eyes was, "I wonder when I'll be taller than you." I sleepily said, "Next week, at the rate we're going."

"What day did Daddy die?"
"February 20th, just before midnight."
"Is that a school day?"
"It is this year."
"We should celebrate it."
"I wondered about that. Is it weird to celebrate a day someone died? They couldn't control that date. Then again they couldn't control their birthday either. Hunh ..."
"If we celebrate that day, then I'll get my holiday back. The one I'm missing. The Mexicans have Day of the Dead and they celebrate dead people that day. So we can have Day of the Daddy."

And then he popped out of bed to get socks and go have breakfast. So next Tuesday, we'll have some Mexican food and cuss inappropriately (more than we already do) and watch Blazing Saddles.

Simple gifts

We had a rough start to Christmas this morning. My parents had helped me wrap my gifts for Ian last night while Santa delivered his under the tree. I felt like the items were on par for previous years. I went to bed optimistic.

Ian had only requested one thing from me - soccer goals. I found some that are pretty cool and I'm hoping it means he can persuade some neighbor kids to the yard to play. 

His list for Santa, though, was a bit more outrageous and impractical. It included a Nintendo Switch (which retails for $300), a flat screen TV (he already has a small one in his room), a new computer (his computer works fine), a BMX bike and a track built in the back yard, new headphones (his current ones are fine), and a real horse. 

The items he wanted were either duplicates of things he already has (and never uses) or were so outrageously impractical or expensive, Santa couldn't deliver. I just took him on a Caribbean cruise two weeks ago, so I wasn't interested in giving him a ton of high dollar items. And as I perused my Excel sheet of Ian's gifts from previous years, I noted a lot of items he said he wanted and then never actually used. It made me weary.

Santa got him two cool board games (Qwirkle and 7 Wonders Duel), a football, a sling shot, and the third illustrated Harry Potter book. His stocking was also full of neato little things that he'd never even knew existed but are fun. 

Ian wanted a BMX bike. When he came downstairs, the first thing he said was, "None of these look big enough to be a BMX bike." As he opened his items from Santa, he noted that none of these things were on his list. My mother offered that her children had said things like that before but ended up really liking the things they got. So maybe Santa knows best. Ian was not persuaded.


Santa had written a letter to Ian about his desire for a horse. I thought it was pretty clever telling him that he could take a lesson at the farm for free and just tell them that Santa had sent him. He read the letter and his face fell. 


My mom asked what the letter said. At first Ian said he didn't want to talk about it. Then he said, "It says Santa doesn't care what I asked for." He stomped off to his room with gifts still wrapped under the tree.

I steeled myself and went upstairs. Tears welled up in my eyes as I sat with him. I told him that Santa had talked to me. That he got Ian's letter and he was concerned about some of the things on the list. Santa wanted to get him what he had asked for, but he wasn't sure if Ian really knew the things involved in it all. I told Santa that Ian already had a computer and video game systems. Santa and I agreed that a BMX track in the back yard would make it hard for the dogs to use the space, and for Ian to play catch or soccer or anything else he wanted to do out there. 

Santa offered that a horse was something he could maybe find, but he was worried that it would be a burden for me. I told Santa that leaving a horse in our yard would be a disaster. Where would we keep him? What would we feed him? How would we ever go out of town? And what if Ian likes horses for a few weeks or months but decides he would rather skate board. It's a living animal. It's a responsibility. It's not really a good gift from anyone. 

I also reminded Ian that while Santa is magic, he's not perfect. No one is. If Santa could give everyone anything they said they wanted, no one would ever be hungry or homeless or sick. You can't tell Santa you want to go to the moon and wake up Christmas morning with two tickets to outer space in your stocking. The man has his limits. We all do.

I also told him that there are three boxes of presents downstairs from him for me and I loved them already, having no idea what's in them. Because gifts are about love. Ian curled up under the covers and said he was sorry. He didn't want to be ungrateful. He just felt like Santa hadn't really read his letter.

"Dude, he totally read your letter. How else would he have told me about the BMX track and the horse? He cares a lot. He wants to give you things that make you happy. And sometimes you don't know what will make you happy. Or sometimes the things that would make you happy can't fit under a tree."

He started crying and blurted out, "I miss Daddy!" 

"I miss Daddy too, Stink. It sucks and it's not fair that he can't be here for Christmas. But Santa can't fix that. And I can't fix that either. All we can do is love you super hard." 

By some stroke of luck, the last Advent book we read last night was "My Penguin Osbert" about a boy requesting a live penguin from Santa. He realizes that owning a live penguin isn't all he thought it would be and ends up sending a new letter to Santa saying if he wanted to trade that would be ok.

While Ian and I were having a heart to heart upstairs, my folks were downstairs comparing notes on their childhood experiences. Mom asked Daddy if he'd ever had a bad Christmas. He just said, "All of them." Daddy grew up incredibly poor so he learned early not to get his hopes up. Mom recalled getting the same type of elegant movie star doll as her sister requested versus the baby doll she wanted. She cried and cried because she didn't feel heard. 

And in a lot of ways, I think Ian felt not heard today. He's not sure what he wants, but he wants someone or something magical to fix the ache he feels. He's learning that we're the only ones who can heal those holes in our own hearts. 

Ian rallied and came back downstairs. He was genuinely excited to see me open my gifts. He admitted that he really wanted a sling shot but hadn't put it on his list. I told him Santa pays attention to him all year long and makes notes. Sometimes Santa may know what we need and give that versus what we say we want. 

We've unpacked a board game to learn. We watched the rest of "Die Hard". We've tested out the sling shot. Christmas is saved. And we'll look forward to better days ahead.


I miss Rich. It’s not all day every day. But it swoops in likes waves on the shore. Sometimes, if I’m not looking, I get knocked down. 

Ian asks so many questions. “If you had two million dollars and someone said they could bring Daddy back for one million dollars, would you do it? I mean ... because you’d still have a million dollars ... and Daddy too!”

It’s hard to answer those questions. It’s like asking what kind of iced tea I would make on the rings of Saturn. It’s so impossible to imagine, I can’t even entertain an answer. 

We’ve already agreed that sick Daddy shouldn’t come back. That would be cruel. But Daddy from 2010? That guy was great. And sure, any of us who love him would want that guy back.

And yet here we are. And here he isn’t. So all we can do is miss him and talk about him. 

I’ve been listening to the Scrubs soundtrack again. Rich never had much interest in watching the show himself but he always greatly enjoyed my descriptions of the episodes. 

There are two songs in particular of note. First is “Good Life” by Francis Dunnery.

Rich couldn’t bear for me to play it around him. Now that he’s gone, I can play it all day if I like. 

It was too hard for him to listen to. The soundtrack for Season One came out in September of 2002. Rich was freshly separated. I was divorced. We were in love. That song reminded him of the previous 12 months when he thought he’d never see me again. During that awful period, he wondered if it would be enough for me to just have a “good life” even if he couldn’t be a part of it. 

I don’t believe in the afterlife, but if there is some form of Rich floating around, I would like to think he is still wanting me to have a good life, even if he can’t be a part of it. 

The other song of note is “Have It All” by Jeremy Kay

That one didn’t bother Rich if I played it. Listening to it 15 years later, it has new meaning for me. Some days I feel like crying, dreaming, singing, or laughing. And I do try to keep the rhythm of a train. And I really do believe that some day we’re gonna have it all. 

Missing someone doesn’t need to be fixed. It’s not indicative of some larger problem. It’s just there. Like the weather, or waves on the shore. 

Rich and Mollie on our beach, November 2007

Rich and Mollie on our beach, November 2007