Ghosts of Father’s Day at Our Little House

My dad, Frank Fivecoat, with my brother, Steve


Sunday is Father’s Day, a day to celebrate our dads and thank them for being a part of our lives.

For the better part of my life, 30 years on July 21, Father’s Day has always been a constant reminder that my dad was no longer able to be a part of mine.

The years have passed and of course, that raw and constant heart stabbing grief moves to a dull ache in the background ready to sneak up on me at different times.

I posted on my Facebook page on June 10 that I had been feeling rather low that week and when I looked at the calendar I realized that day would have been my dad’s 88th birthday.  Of course, then I remembered that this year would also mark the 30th anniversary of his death.

I’ve tried to imagine him an old man, as he was only 58 when he died suddenly of a heart attack.

And a million times, I’ve tried to imagine what it would have been like to have him at my high school graduation, walking me down the aisle at my wedding, bantering with our two girls. What he would have said to me when I was the first in our family to graduate from college and the Sunday BBQs we missed.

Dale was also close to my father and when he has started a difficult project at home, he’s often wondered what it would have been like to have Dad around to help.

When I posted on Facebook about the sudden realization that connected my sadness with my dad’s birthday, there were more than 20 comments, all from women who also missed their fathers terribly, no matter how long it had been since they lost them.

Two of our Living Large community posted comments that really hit home.

Rhonda Mock wrote, “A man should never, ever, underestimate the emotional power he has over his daughter.”

Kathleen Winn, who lost her father 5 years ago, wrote about her husband’s experience of losing his father when he was just 14. “I miss the father I had, David misses the father he didn’t have.”

Several years before she died, my mother started a tradition on Mother’s Day, giving me a card and small gift for being her daughter.

So, this Father’s Day, I’m giving myself the gift here at Our Little House of trying not to miss the father I didn’t have all of these years while still celebrating the emotional impact my dad has had on my life and will always have in my heart.

I look around Our Little House and see reminders that although I didn’t have his physical presence, he is still with us – Our Little House itself wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the seed money from the home my dad worked for all of his life.

I still see the splatters of green paint on a concrete yard ornament from when Dad painted the Little Bungalow from gray to green nearly 4 decades ago. A lamp he bought for my mother on one of their many Sunday antique auction excursions lights a path over all of the dogs until we can get settled into bed at night.

And a portrait of a beautiful feather spirit ascending to the sky, painted by a Native American artist who was a friend of the family, and given to my mother in memory of my dad, watches over me while I work in The Belle Writer’s Studio

Even when Dale worked on the Baby Blazer last weekend, he said it was some sort of a wench device that belonged to my father that helped him get it apart so he can put new fenders on it. “I finally had him helping me with a project,” he proclaimed.

In no other place I’ve lived in my adult life have I ever felt the presence of my dad so strongly as I do here at Our Little House. Another way we are certainly Living Large.

Happy Father’s Day to all of our community who are dads, but to also to all of our community who can only celebrate the memories of our fathers.

Is your father still with you physically or do you rely on the memories of his spirit?


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24 Responses

  1. I’m sad your dad died so young, Kerri. My dad is very far away (physically and emotionally). I’m glad my children have a very involved loving father like you did.

  2. Brian says:

    A friend sent this yesterday,    “Nothing can make up for the absence of someone whom we love, and it would be wrong to try and find a substitute; we must simply hold out and see it through. That sounds very hard at first; but at the same time it is a great consolation, for the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bond between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap; God does not fill it, but on the contrary, keeps it empty, and so helps us to keep alive our former communion with each other, even at the  cost of pain.”. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

  3. merr says:

    My father passed away 20 years ago and at first days like Father’s Day and his birthday were just plain weird. Now I feel like both my parents are present, (both have passed away) but I’ve felt like being in the quiet, in nature, in meditation – in stillness – helps to know the power of that presence.

    • Kerri says:

      I feel that too, Merr, especially when I’m out on the lake. I can sit back and close my eyes and really feel it.

  4. Brian says:

    This fathers day will be particularly difficult, I lost my father yesterday. I am grateful he was there for so many life events, and despite living in a different state for almost 20 years, the pain is searing.

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, my Brian. I’m so very sorry for your loss and you have my deepest condolences. I know this will be an emotional weekend for you and beyond, but I hope your memories are able to sustain you.

    • mat says:

      Very sorry to hear that, Brian. Hopefully, your pain tempers with age…so far I can say that I have good weeks and bad days.
      Best to you and yours.

  5. I can see how Father’s Day would be so hard. I’m grateful my dad is still around. Cool that your house reminds you of him. MASH–the old TV show always makes me think of my dad–he’s Hawkeye–same gait, same hair, same sense of humor.

  6. Heather L. says:

    Glad to have this opportunity to honor our dads. Mine was a professional photographer so I have reminders of him on the walls of my home. In my office, there’s a close up of a Monarch butterfly on a pink flower.

    I am also saddened a little because last night my daughter said she thought this would be the last Father’s Day with her dad as his Parkinson’s seems to be taking over his life.

    Thank you, Kerri, for such a caring post.

    • Kerri says:

      Wow, how amazing, Heather to have his photographs hanging on your wall! I have a quilt rack my father made and I treasure it as well.

  7. mat says:

    It surprises me how that dull ache returns with a burn. My grandfather was my concept of a man and he’s been gone 12 years this month; my son is named for him. Every now and then, I’ll catch a whiff of some pipe tobacco like his or see an old family photo or touch a piece of furniture he made (he was an incredible woodcraftsman)…and all these childhood sensations just come rushing back. If it catches me the wrong way, I still go to pieces. Still. Sometimes, I miss him terribly–all this time later. I wish he were around to meet his great-grandson…I wish he were here to help me with my own woodcraft projects…I wish…for more time.
    But it makes me realize that as a father myself, I can only aspire to leave that kind of legacy.

    • Kerri says:

      It sounds as if you are, Mat! What a wonderful tribute to your grandfather to have named your son after him. My nephew, who was very close to my father (he called him “grandpa dad), has a son named for my dad and he has grown into a remarkable man as well.

  8. Jane Boursaw says:

    Beautiful, Kerri. I lost my dad 8 years ago, and still feel his presence every day. When he was alive, I always lamented the fact that he wasn’t more of a huggable dad. He grew up on a farm and his parents weren’t like that, so he was never like that with us. But he was a good, solid man who worked hard to provide very well for his family. And he and my mom had that opposites-attract thing going. She’s still with us and is very huggable and emotional, and they made it all work through 50+ years of marriage.

    • Kerri says:

      He sounds like my father, Jane. He was what they called then “a man’s man.” Not emotional at all. In the end, I think that is what got him. It’s too bad our society teaches men this, as holding in those emotions isn’t good for our well being. I’m sorry for the loss of your father, but I’m sure you have great memories to hold on too!

  9. My dad is still around and he’s the one who really sent me down the foodie path – our site’s most supportive commenter and champion, too! I’m glad you can look at the components of your home and remember your father.

  10. What a truly touching tribute to your dad, Kerri, and to the power of love between fathers and daughters. This brought tears to my eyes. I appreciate that you included a quote of mine in this very moving blog. It sounds like you’ve committed yourself to being at peace with your dad’s memory and the loss of him over so many years. I love the comment of Dale’s, that he finally got help from your dad with a project. 🙂

    I remember the Father’s Day after my dad died. In fact, I remember the exact moment that I entered a Hallmark store and it hit me that for the first time in many, many years, I would only be buying a card for my husband, but not one for my father. I stopped short right there in the card shop and had to compose myself as a wave of sadness washed over me. Even when my dad was in the advanced stage of Alzheimer’s and no longer even knew what Father’s Day was, I had always bought a card, taken it to him and read it aloud to him. Thank you for this beautifully written Father’s Day essay. It made me think of my dad and of course miss him, but also made me realize how lucky I was to have him for all of the years that he was with us.

    • Kerri says:

      I remember that moment as well, Kathleen, even after all of these years. And I still do have the last Father’s Day card I gave him. 🙂

  11. Kerri says:

    What a lovely gesture, Alexandra. So very nice and to know that tree will someday bear fruit! That sounds like an essay in itself. My parents are buried together at Ft. Leavenworth. I plan on visiting their grave when i go there in July.

  12. Alexandra says:

    This post was very moving. My dad passed away at 97. I took care of him for the last two years of his life. He is still very much a part of my life. In fact, last week I finally had my 3 kids here together, and we planted a pear tree in memory of my parents, burying their ashes together underneath.