Today, Sunday 3rd September, is Father's Day in Australia. On Friday I invited Mum and Dad to come for lunch if they didn't have other plans. They accepted and I prepared for the first invitation meal I've had at my house for quite a while. It's funny because I have a history of loving to entertain and feed people. Barbeques, curry nights, potlucks are my old habit. But of late I haven't felt able to do any of that.
There are myriad reasons why, and perhaps because of that, the essential one is that I simply couldn't muster the energy to initiate such an event. I've been overwhelmed in many ways (and financially underwhelmed...) so it was just easier not to 'go there'. I've been eating solo for six months now. Apart from the odd occasion I've dined out with friends, or at work where I commonly eat with any from a few to a lot of people!
So today was a bit of a test for me. I thought about creating a roast, a desert, a cake from scratch. And suddenly it all felt exhausting again. I had to choose something manageable. Dad's always been a cheese 'n' pickles man so I settled on a Ploughman's Lunch, created not from scratch, but from the supermarket. A loaf of crusty bread, butter, two cheeses - one blue and one tasty, sweet mustard pickles, gherkins, tomatoes and potato crisps served with a bottle of sparkling apple juice. I forgot the pickled onions, but we managed.
I cleaned and tidied and created a relatively serene space for the visit, and popped on a CD printed with Big Band swing music. Laid the table, gor myself ready - even wore a necklace for the occasion. When Mum and Dad arrived I was able to greet them dancing along to the music and they came in all smiles.
Over pleasant chit-chat we enjoyed our lunch together and then I presented Dad with his gifts; a bottle filled with two weeks' worth of nightcaps and a photo album into which I had placed photos. I wish I had filmed as Dad looked at that album. It was such a lovely and special time. I wasn't entirely sure he would like it but it seems he really did. Photos of events from the end of the 1950s through to the present elicited discussions and stories and memories from all three of us. I hope this will continue to be enjoyed over the coming months or years.
This year was a little different. Although Dad still popped his signature wit out from time to time, he is changing. My Dad has Alzheimer's Disease and he is slowly but surely slipping away from us all in tiny increments. And so this was an important time. Because next Father's Day he might not remember. He might not know me. He might not be here any more. So I am grateful that I have the memory of this particular Father's Day.
At the same time I give thanks for the enormous privilege it is to still have my father when I am 59 years old. He will soon be 85. As I grow older, I am grateful for the many lessons I have learned from my Dad. For the time we have had together. I have been so, so lucky in my life.
Through this day I have also been pained by the fact that my own kids don't have their Dad any more. I wish we could be together to talk about and remember him but that's not possible this year. And maybe it's not what they would want anyway. It's difficult to know what is the right thing to do. I struggle to find my way in it all.
Mum lost her father when she was in her early 20s. Dad's father passed away almost 40 years ago. My sister-in-law's father has passed on; my cousins have lost their Dad too. We are a small family. And we are very short on Dads. We treasue those that remain and the memory of those gone. Each played an important part in our lives . We miss them, of course. I still have my Dad. For now. I am blessed.
A bitter-sweet day, this Father's Day. I discovered that I can have guests for a meal and deliver! I enjoyed so much the time we spent and recognise that each memory is precious as it is created. But I have also been reminded that time for good things will run out. This is life. It's hard. None of us know for sure what happens in an hour, next week or later. We wait and see. Each of us.
Breathing a sigh of ...resignation? ...relief? Not sure if it is either of those or something else, but I know I will offer more invitations to lunch and dinner. Potlucks will happen again, or at least so I hope. Time alone has been necessary and healing but it is time to begin recreating those relationships that grow over shared meals and cuppas and perhaps a beer or a wine. For a time I set those things aside; I hadn't the energy. I think I'm on my way back.
Each of us has our own 'Dad' story. I know the stories are not all good ones. For those that are able to have a 'Happy' Father's Day, I wish you that. For those not so able, my heart aches.
I wish you Peace and Hope and Healing.