In 2002, Father’s Day fell on my brother’s and my birthday of June 16th — I being born on my brother’s fifth birthday. My Dad had been living with a particularly virulent form of prostrate cancer for about nine years, and he was succumbing to the illness. His decline had been steep between April and June of his final year, and on my birthday…well, my brother and I both knew he may pass on our birthday.
He didn’t. Instead he passed on the next day.
My brothers and I had been taking shifts of sort with my Mom. My Dad had wanted to pass at home instead of in a hospital, and my brothers and I were there in “shifts” with her to make sure she wasn’t alone when my Dad passed. We loved Dad; we loved her — we wanted to be there for her.
It was my shift on the morning of the 17th. I was there in my Dad’s room and my Mom was fixing herself something to eat in the kitchen as I recall — when my Dad spoke his last words. He called out to my Mom, loudly calling out “Honey!” twice. I heard his last words; I alerted my Mom that her husband was calling for her; my Mom was there by his side when he passed.
Back then, schools were adequately funded to teach art. My elementary school in Granada Hills, California had a kiln, clay, and colored glazes, and with these tools and media my first grade class was given the assignment of making clay animals as Father’s Day presents. I made for my Dad a bunny — my then favorite animal. And, it was a pretty ugly, gray, clay bunny that I created as a gift for him.
But, my Dad apparently treasured that bunny that sprang from a school assignment and my love for him. He kept that bunny for over 35-years — and it spent most of it’s existence on top of his chest of drawers. The visual ugliness of that little clay bunny’s design and shape was never hidden away because my Dad saw beautiful, loving sentiment imbued within that Father’s Day gift.
And years later, the bunny returned to me with new sentiment attached to it. In a real sense the expression love found in that bunny I’d given my father on a Father’s Day in 1965 came back to me in a new expression of love in 2002…a message tied in so many ways to Father’s Day.
It was ten years ago today that my Dad passed, and I remember his life through the lenses of love and affection. Wonderfully, I have a little clay bunny to remind me of the simple beauty of love we shared as parent and child.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad — I’m thinking of you today.