The fact that my son Noah will never get to meet my dad is one of the saddest realities I live with, in my weakest moments. The fact that my father never even had the chance to meet my little Noah is gut-wrenching to me, in my lowest of lows. For if I had to name the two biggest influences in my life? They would be my father and my son.
My husband Davy is my forever one. But I married him. I chose him.
I did not choose my father and I did not choose my son. That is blood. I am their blood.
My mother is the one who carried me in her belly and pushed me out into this world, but it is my father who shaped me most. My mother knows this. She loves this. Because, my father was unlike anybody in my life and this will be true forevermore. I know this. I love this.
Because you see, to know my father was to love him, the way you love the feeling of your feet touching the ground firmly when you jump off a swing. The way you love picking up where you left off in your favorite book. The way you love free-falling into your own bed after some time away, because there’s just no place like home. Steadfast. Solid. My dad.
And his presence was surely felt this April when my little family of three made our trip back home to New York, to be at my brother’s wedding. Noah played his part of ring bearer and flower boy to perfection. It was just about the most perfect day that 17th of April…
There were, however, countless loved ones in attendance who wished my father could be there, of course and especially my mother. But she didn’t need to tell us this. And we did not voice this sentiment to her either. We did not want to take her joyous day away…
But my mother shed not one tear on my brother’s wedding day, although I had, she refused to. She glowed. Her strength that day kept me strong too. I owed that to her.
Her baby boy was married. I was married. She said this out loud in Korean to nobody in particular, as we left the wedding hall, but I heard her and I know in my heart she was talking to my dad who was listening from above.
My mother carried that same glow when she joined me and Davy and Noah on our trip to the cemetery to see my dad, just a week later. We had never made it to the cemetery on our last trip back to New York in 2012. I’d regretted it immensely. But I knew it was time to pay my dad a visit, and for Davy and Noah to pay their respects for their first time.
I remember my stomach being in knots that morning, the 23rd of April, an even bigger knot in my throat. I couldn’t swallow, as hard as I tried, the significance of the day. I cried, so very much, as I prepared to walk once again upon the grounds where my father lay for the last 12 years.
I never did let Noah see me cry that day.
I owed that to him.
Noah held my hand and he listened intently as I spoke to him…
This is where we come to remember my papa, your haraboji, because he’s not here with us anymore. He’s so very far away that we cannot see him or touch him, I’d said to Noah.
I’d then picked up a dandelion from the plush lawn by my father’s tombstone. Because one of Noah’s favorite things to do is blow on them and watch the seeds fly away. So I handed Noah the dandelion as we crouched in front of my father’s grave.
If you blow on this dandelion the seeds will fly away and some will reach haraboji way up in the sky. That’s where he is. That’s where he will always be, watching over us. And he will always know that you are the one who has sent him the beautiful dandelion seeds, I’d said to Noah.
Maybe one day Noah will ask about heaven and hell. And maybe one day I’ll tell him about all that’s heavenly, and not. Or not. My faith has not been the same since I lost my dad. It was never as strong as I pretended it was anyway. And I don’t know if it will ever be strong again. It is why I choose not to raise Noah in the Christian faith though that’s how I was raised.
In that moment though, Noah’s eyes lit up. He blew that dandelion so hard that the seeds starting swirling around his face, tickling him. We laughed and stared skyward together, as the precious seeds floated higher and higher. It didn’t matter how far they made it. Noah was entranced with the idea that he could somehow connect with the man whom I’d just referred to as “my papa.”
We watched Noah run from spot to spot picking dandelions and sending seeds of love up to my father. He didn’t want to stop. Davy was surprised by how quickly Noah caught on to the idea of being able to reach my father. My mother beamed with pride. Her grandson was so expressive in his desire to be a part of my father’s world in that moment, and intuitive enough to know just what she, his halmuhnee, needed right then and there…
And in that moment, all the once-tangled and painful knots inside me unraveled and I knew I was right to have waited to bring these three loves of my life together to where my father rested.
It was a beautiful day, that day in April, visiting my dad. It was my very own happy Father’s Day. In Belgium, Father’s Day falls on the 12th of June this year, this Sunday, one Sunday before it does in the States. So I will be celebrating again and again. No tears. Just love.
So Happy Father’s Day to everyone, every day this month, every day of the year. Why not? For new fathers and grandfathers, fathers lost and dearly missed, or fathers found anew, fathers here and there and everywhere.
I feel you.
Loved. Cherished. Remembered.
I’m reminded always now, by dandelion seeds in the air…
As I finish this blog, I’ve received news that my brother is in the hospital and very sick. The doctors can’t pin-point the cause of his blood infection, but as of this morning he is out of the ICU and stable. I choose to believe this is my father watching over him. And though I wish I could end this blog on a lighter note, I have never been one to hide my emotions when it comes to my family. I ask that you keep my brother in your thoughts. Thank you everyone for your love.
UPDATE: Friday, June 10th. My brother has been released in stable health and has returned home to rejoin his new bride. I do not have all the answers, and maybe I never will, but all I need to know is that my brother is home again, even cracking jokes. The newlywedding can pick up where it was left off.