An Unwanted First On Father’s Day

My dad was a notorious early riser and even after I had been living in the Midwest for 15 years, he never figured out the difference in time zones. In 2009, I was celebrating my second Father’s Day, but my first in Minnesota. That Sunday in June, I got an early morning call from my dad who couldn’t wait to wish me a Happy Father’s Day at a normal hour. It was really early – maybe 6 a.m. – so I don’t remember exactly what he said. But I do remember that he gushed about me…to me. He told me that in my 16 months of fatherhood up to that point, he could tell that I would become a great dad.

Yeah yeah, dad. Thanks. It’s 6 in the morning. I’ll call you later.

And for the next 13 years on every Father’s Day, first by call and then by text, I got the same treatment from my dad. I became an early riser just like him. My 6 a.m. cup of coffee is my time for myself. I can read the news, I can scroll social media, I can check my fantasy baseball team, or I can stare out the window. It’s my time – my time before the chaos of work and kids and life kicks in. I knew that every year on Father’s Day, my dad – who loved me no matter what – would tell me that he saw me love my kids too. No matter what.

He wouldn’t just tell me he was proud of me. He would make it clear that he noticed the small things. You know, the things that most parents never get credit for because we just do them. But my dad noticed. And when he noticed, it was the validation that I needed.

Getting those early morning calls or texts was no big deal to me at the time. It was just my dad being my dad. Like many things and on many occasions, I took them for granted. On Father’s Day of 2022, I waited and waited, but I never got my text. It took me a while to realize that the decline had begun and my dad’s entire calendar was off. I had to call him later that morning. He had just forgotten. Our conversation was shorter than normal but he still made me feel pretty damn good that day.

On Father’s Day of 2023, I knew I wasn’t going to get a text or a call. I called my dad and wished him a Happy Father’s Day. He said, “If you say it’s Father’s Day, I believe you.” And then he told me he loved me and was proud of me like he always did. He died exactly 6 months later.

On Father’s Day of 2024, I will have no one to call.

So I’ll get up early like my dad did. And then on this first Father’s Day without him, I’ll have a dad day. Maybe I’ll grab a coffee and a donut and go to the airport and watch planes take off and land. Or maybe I’ll find a classic car show that day. The Twins are home – and while they’re not the Mets, we did spend a lot of Father’s Days at baseball games. If the weather is good, maybe I’ll grill outside. I’ll make his favorites. And then maybe I’ll sit outside on a pre-summer night, nursing a Grand Marnier on the rocks, while smiling hard at his three grandchildren. I think he would like that. He would really, really like that.