Thursday 22 August 2019

No way to spend Father's Day

A flag of Ireland, flowers and a sign are shown at a shrine left for victims of the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse
A flag of Ireland, flowers and a sign are shown at a shrine left for victims of the Library Gardens apartment building balcony collapse
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

When they are small, Father's Day is all about them really. As is Christmas, your birthday, holidays, everything really. Because you somehow get more out of seeing them happy and excited than you do out of being happy and excited yourself. You have never been so in love. On special days like today, there can be a hint of melancholy to that love. Auden's rumble of distant thunder at a picnic. You are acutely aware of how precious it is, how they will grow up and away from you, how fleeting it all is, how they will be gone in the blink of an eye.

You don't need to actively dream dreams for your children. There is just a set of assumptions that you take for granted: that you will see them grow up, that you will be there for it, that they will hit the milestones, go to school, ride a bike, make friends, get a job, maybe one day meet someone and have children of their own.

When they are small, you don't tend to dwell on the last bit. When they are small, you can't ever picture them besotted with someone else. As they are with you and you are with them.

You take all those dreams, that roadmap, for granted. Until it is challenged, and then you find yourself, to your surprise, mourning the future you thought they would have. But whatever surprises come along, you can get over it, because you still have them there.

You maybe take for granted too that they will, in some way, follow in your footsteps, follow the same rites of passage as you did. Maybe college, maybe the J-1.

Even though you start to learn that there will be disappointments along the way, and that nothing ever goes to plan, and bad things actually don't just happen to other people, you survive. You deal with it because that's what dads do. We have no choice. Everyone relies on us.

But you never imagine that, on Father's Day 2015, you will be bringing them home from California on a special flight, all dreams gone, no future left. It is an unbearable thought.

Why your child? Why did they go to Berkeley? Why did they step onto that balcony? Why did they not happen to go back inside a minute earlier? Why weren't you there to keep them safe like you used to be when they were small? Why did they have to grow up and go out into the world? Why did you let them out of your sight?

Because that's what dads do. And that's why we have a day devoted to us, some small compensation for the heartbreak of having to let go as they grow up.

But no one should have to let go this brutally. No dad should spend Father's Day bringing home a body.

Sunday Independent

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