Today was Father's Day. Some say that Father's Day always takes second fiddle to Mother's Day. Some complain about how dads just want to go play a round of golf on Father's Day, while mothers are expected to spend the day with their children. Regardless of how you might view the day, in our house it is forever different. I remember Mark's last Father's Day on earth. I remember shopping for him, cooking for him, loving on him. This year was our second one without him here. The second that we visited his grave rather than spending it with him in person. The second that we didn't have any handmade cards, no yearly coffee gift, no celebratory lunch or dinner.
This year I was partially pleased that my own dad needed to postpone celebrating until next weekend, because it means I don't have to muster up a celebratory energy on a day that I am otherwise sad. See, I still have my dad, I get to celebrate him. But, one of the worst parts of being a widow with children, is that those children no longer have their dad. The absence of a dad, its felt. There are literally studies done on fatherless children, with results showing how many disadvantages they have, how much more likely they are to drop out of high school, or become teen parents, or be incarcerated. To grow up without a dad is not just emotionally heartbreaking, but literally puts you at a disadvantage. So as I grieve, I parent. I parent grieving children. And for every beautiful memory we can bring up about Mark, there a hundreds of future events that he won't be there for. Events, that he has already missed, birthday parties, t-ball games, volleyball banquets, 5th grade graduations, and first days of school. There are lessons that he can't teach.
I think of all of the things my dad has taught me, from how to swing a bat, to riding a bike, to changing the oil in my car, and I wonder if I will be able to fill the gap. Will I be able to teach my kids the practical dad things? Then I think of all of the things unique to Mark that I know I won't be able to teach them. Things like how to be a person of color in America, or the art of studying the people surrounding you, or how to dance to the beat, or how to beat the game of Zelda, some lessons more important than others. For these things I can only hope, pray and strategize. I can only place people in the lives of my children that can help, that can father. I hope and pray that those people are people who knew their dad, that can tell stories about him, that can share advice he might have given. I try to teach them those lessons, I try to figure out how to balance Mark's moral code and character with his "forget them" attitude. But at the end of the day, I am not a dad, I am mom.
Still, we tried to do Father's Day today. We visited the cemetery and dropped off 6 different sets of flowers. We planned a trip to the beach, and got postponed when Hezekiah crashed his bike. As I washed out his cuts and bandaged him up, and put ice on his head, I couldn't help but imagine Mark's reaction if I would have carried Hezekiah in like that. He would have lost his mind. Mark was somehow extremely protective, while still allowing the kids to do their own thing. It is very possible he would have taken Hez to the urgent care, and then hid his bike for the rest of the summer. But instead, it was up to me, so we got him fixed up and he laid down to relax. I am sure he will be back on the bike by Wednesday. I often wonder how Mark would have responded to the endless scenarios we encounter, from bullying, to potty-training, to dating. Here I am, with the responsibility sitting on my shoulders.
I don't know why God gave us this burden to bear. I know that He didn't design solo-parenting as the ideal. One day I might get answers to these questions, but for now I will just have to rest in the confidence that He has my best in mind. I must make a conscious decision to cast my cares on Christ and trust that He has plans for these children.