If you're fortunate to have a good relationship with your father, one of those difficult markers after your Daddy dies is your first Father's Day.
For me, that Father’s Day happened during a two-month stay in Ocala in 2003. Dad and Mom died, respectively, in February and March of that year. And to avoid all the Mother's and Father's day fanfare, I retreated to the quiet safety of their home in Ocala in early May.
A good friend was worried and asked if I would be able to handle being alone in the house. I answered, "I don't know. I just know that I have to go. And if I can't handle it, I DO know how to make plane reservations to come back home."
You know how it goes with fear, it’s distorted and magnified by the funhouse mirrors of our imagination. As difficult and uncertain as it seemed in my mind, and in the minds of others, actually living there in the empty house was unsurprisingly easy; like getting a big hug. There was plenty of food to eat, comfortable beds to sleep in, space to spread out, and things to keep me busy.
A priority became to tie up some loose ends. See, when the shit started hitting the fan with Dad's death, we flew out of Florida like Cinderella leaving the party. So I was able to visit some of their close friends, who graciously welcomed me in, to tell them "the rest of the story." Plus I had work to do. The house needed to be sold and cleaned out and there was no better time to take care of that business.
To uncover all the hidden objects, or as Dad would say, “the dust collectors,” that mom tucked into the closet so he wouldn’t see them. And laugh.
And to fill my belly with the food creatively jammed into the freezer and the pantry.
And to sleep in the beds and on the sofas like Little Red Riding Hood trying to find a place that was just right.
And to cry as freely and openly and as often and as ugly as I needed to with no one watching or judging.
And to stay under the covers as long as I wanted and needed to.
And to quietly continue writing what is now a collection of over 150 haikus; the form of writing that helped re-weave the pieces of my broken heart together.
And to make some peace with the journey as it was and as it had unfolded.
And to connect with their community and donate a ton of “stuff” to local charities, organizations, and some individuals who were in need of furniture and other household goods.
And to take long, thoughtful, walks in the Florida heat with the stick that Dad always put in my hand in case there were snakes around.
And to saturate myself in the welcomed stillness and silence, not knowing I was transforming my spirit.
On the Friday of Father's Day weekend in 2003, I was sitting on the floor of the house in Ocala. I opened a bottle of wine, turned on the TV to watch Oprah, and was wrapping and packing some of Mom's china. Oprah's special guest on that Friday was Luther Vandross. Luther had released a new album and was debuting his new single, the title track of the album "Dance With My Father."
How very bittersweet.
A cosmic wink beyond what I could’ve imagined as that first No Father’s Day approached.
It damn near made me pass out, and started an ugly cry like no others before. Washing my soul.
Dad and I always danced together. Especially when I came home from school to find him blasting one of my records and dancing in the living room. He’d grab my hand and we’d dance.
His favorite … “Statesboro Blues” by the Allman Brothers.
What a hoot. What a Dad.
“If I could steal one final glance One final step One final dance with him
I’d play a song that would never end
How I’d love, love, love
To dance with my father again”
Come ... Dance in the space of my re-woven heart with me … and Dad