Father’s Day

Father’s Day
Becca at her father’s gravesite. Family photo.

Hallmark enforces the calendar’s arbitrary days of celebration. For many adoring children, this Sunday is Father’s Day. Those like me will be reminded that their father died.

COVID-19 has stopped Father’s Day celebrations all over the world.

Mask-clad daily, I’m suffocating my thoughts of self-pity. It is a privilege to wear a mask and to breathe underneath the cloth. What else am I hiding from friends and family beyond hidden smiles and obstructed frowns? My father passed away at a hospice near Kensington Market, in Toronto, Ontario – I cover my grief and cower at its power over me, years later.

Recently, a friend called me from the hospital to tell me her dad was dying: There’s fluid in his lungs, she said. I heard her voice crack in my phone. She’s blinking back tears. He’s dying. He’s been strong, but not stronger than the disease.

I close my eyes as I listen, inhale through my nose, and I can almost smell the hospital fumes: disinfectant soaps, hand sanitizers, the rubber of the gloves. The beeping of machines, the murmur of nurses, the squeak of their shoes, and the monotonous timbre of a doctor relaying news. I picture my friend, but then – I see myself, years ago in the hospital with my father. I was sixteen.

There is no correct way to mourn. Here I am, eight years later, in Brooklyn, still mourning.

In an age where we mourn on Facebook, vlog trauma, and TikTok the walk to closure, a forlorn Instagram post gets more likes than a picture of a newborn baby. People stare at others in situations of despair, in grief. It took trial, error, performativity, and creativity for my coping process to start. My art nudes pop-off when not removed by the powers that be. The key to validation is vulnerability on platforms. I feel seen.

However, now is not my time to be seen, for there are more fathers dying, human rights issues to be reconciled, systemic racism to be eradicated — more learning must be had. More mourning.

My eyes are closed as I listen to my friend on the phone. If I open them, I’m forced to confront that I am no longer in a hospital room. That my dad is dead.

Becca with her dad. Family photo.

I go to the funeral. I wear the dress I wore to my dad’s funeral. No one knows that. I place myself there to show care. I cannot wait to hold my friend close. I want to appeal to the adolescent, incessant, and unwavering pit in my stomach. I know this pit is in her stomach too.

I watch the casket go into the ground. My throat tightens, and my eyes well up. A lady to my left seems too close and wears perfume with notes of vanilla and peppermint. I take this as a hint – the scent, the tight clasp of her hands – that she too, maybe, is in the club, our mourning band. To my right, a man has furrowed his brow. He smells of musk and sweat in this June weather somehow. Perhaps he is a father, I quietly think. I inch toward him, turn to face him, and muster a vacant blink.

After the burial, the condolences, and the respects, I sit on the bus home and reflect. I ashamedly admit to myself that I wish I was the griever. I want the excuse to take a week off of work. I want time to heave, to cry and ask God: Why? Why today – 8 years later – does it feel the same?

Yet another friend’s dad died last week.

I went to the funeral. He was buried in a fine suit, patent leather shoes, and a new tie. The service was held on Zoom. My dad was Jewish and was buried in a smock. We mourned.

This virus has stopped celebrations of Father’s Day all over the world.

Today, I hug no one. I grieve for my father and try to breathe under the mask I wear every day … a mask that has nothing to do with the pandemic.

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