Fathers Day Without Him

Father’s Day 2015. The last Father’s Day my children had with him. 

We spent the morning at home relaxing and enjoying each other sharing our morning coffee and in the afternoon we took our daughter out on her two wheel bike for the first time. Our cat, Cooper, followed us to the park eager to see her try her bike. 

We spent an hour or so watching her and taking turns pushing her while she nervously and cautiously peddled forward. I remember how proud she looked while Anthony pushed the back of her bike. 

She didn’t notice how tired or sore he was. She didn’t see the slight changes in his personality at the time. I was and am thankful  for that. 

It was in June 2015 I began to pick up on the subtleties of his personality changes. His irritability, changing sleeping patterns and exhasperated pain. I didn’t know it yet, but he’d gone off his lithium. Cold turkey. 

Father’s Day that year will always be deeply embedded in my heart. It was one of the last days we spent together as a family happy and enjoying each other. Our daughter loved celebrating him and our son enjoyed the downtime with him. We ordered Chinese food that night and he opened our gifts of appreciation for him; his laugh, love, advice and comfort he brought to our lives. 

Our daughter painted him a picture frame with a photo of her – her hands shaping out a heart. I had struggled picking out an antique carver he had been talking about buying for several weeks from our son and I. When manic he would become almost obsessed with things and this carver was one of them… so was the antique store he  as eventually banned from after the mania took hold. 

At night we cuddled, and embraced each other.  “Happy Father’s Day Peter. I love you”. 

This is the second Father’s Day without him. No morning coffee, or family afternoon strolls, no game night, no gorging on unhealthy food infront of our favourite shows, and no night time cuddles. 

But he’s still a father.  Our children will forever have the better memories of him etched in their hearts of the teachable moments and skills he shared. 

Our son learned carpentery skills from the skateboard ramp Anthony helped him to build, and words of encouragement and love during his own struggles. He will always carry his father’s taste in music and TV, and will remember him helping him to tie his little tie our wedding day. 

Our daughter will fondley remember movie nights cuddled against his chest, and rides on his shoulders in her younger years. She’ll remember his creativeness and laugh.

I’ll cherish the earlier years and the pride he felt with each mildstone each of our children reached. Our daughter’s birth to our son’s school performances playing guitar and singing. 

This year we spent our day at Watertown with family and friends. It definitely helped to take the sting out of the day. We hiked to the waterfalls and ate giant hotdogs for lunch. We spent Father’s Day there when our son was 8 years old. I was excited to share those memories with our daughter while we were there. 

The Lookout on the hike where 10 years earlier Anthony, our son, and I stood on Father’s Day.

We all miss him dearly.

Happy Father’s Day Peter❤️️.

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I can’t fix this

Becoming a single parent, like a real single parent, has been challenging. I don’t have a partner to discuss situations with the children, I don’t have the insights he had. I make the dinners, plan the medical apts(most of mine which are missed because my mind these days is not working the way it used to!) coach, clean, plan, model, run errands, manage the budget, walk the dog(when I can find the time) and try my damnedest to help them grieve. 

But I am not him. He can’t be replaced. I cannot fix that for the kids. I want too, but I can’t. 

I cannot even imagine what it must be like for my children. I’m struggling trying to figure out this grief and the carryover grief from the illness changing him. My daughter was to young to remember him being really sick, but my son remembers more than I would have liked him too. Things that I haven’t told many about because of stigma and not understanding the illness, delusions and behaviours that accompanied the Bipolar diagnosis. If it’s that difficult for me to process some days, I can’t imagine how hard it must be on them. 

The other night my son was talking about some of the struggles he’s been having socially  and economically. When I asked about an argument he’s had with friends he said, ” Mom, it’s not something I can talk about with you. I just want dad. Now I have no one to look up to. I want to talk to Dad but I can’t.”

I can’t fix that. I can’t replace his father for him. I can try to do my best as his mother, but I can’t fill the role of his dad, their deep conversations and the relationship they had. 

I’ve never felt so helpless when it comes to my children. This is new territory and it’s difficult to navigate. All I can say is I’m sorry or what do you need and make sure they know I love them? Even then, it feels like an insignificant effort. 

My son’s biological father had very little to do with him as a child. By the time my son was two, his biological dad had abandoned him only to appear and disappear from his life as he grew older. By eight years old, the already fragile relationship had broken, and though now that his dad is older and more mature, my son wants nothing to do with him. 

Now this. I can only pray the experiences will make him a better father and stronger role model for his future children. That he will stay unwavering in his battle in becoming a man. 

I’ve accepted that I can’t be both parents; I try, but I just can not. I can only be here in ways that I know, as their mother, and try to be the best I can by being a good role model, and keeping an open ear and eye. I pray he’ll find his own path, the right one, and will build a happy life for himself. 

In the meantime, I’ll keep making (and sometimes missing and then rescheduling) appointments, cleaning the house, making meals, guiding and modelling and hope I doing and being enough for them to get through this. Even though I know, I can’t fix this for them, I know I can help pick them up when they need lifting and listening when they need to be heard. 

This is part of my promise to him. That I will try to be the best I can be as their parent and help them to remember him as he was before bipolar and suicide took him away.