The recent Fathers day was about our son writing his Star Trek post for you. But I couldn’t get your Dad out of my head and wondered how he felt only getting one card from his eldest son on that Sunday and did it cross his mind as he felt the sharp tear of paper cut across his fingers that he wasn’t getting two, that the other card, the safe, bland, difficult to find one, wouldn’t be up there on his dusty shelves next to the smiling photos of years of pretence. And did he give us a thought as he laughed with his eldest over some other in-joke, did he send us his thoughts through the ether? He certainly hasn’t sent thoughts through the many electronic ways he could communicate. He knows all our addresses and he even understands our new world himself, yet his silence is deafening.

Your Step Mum went quickly and it was our sons first time then for an ironed, starched shirt and I still can’t process the fact that three years later he’s worn the shirt twice more. Your Mums service was our lowest point, and our son sat between us with his small arms barely reaching around us both and we thought we knew pain. We worried for your Dad, losing both women from his life within eight weeks of each other and we made the calls and checked in with him and tried to bridge that gap, to understand, to reach out.

I’m not sure what I expected from him but I didn’t expect this.

Your Dad continues to be totally absent though in the world physically and while I lie here warm in the duvet listening to our sons steady breathing I feel a growing anger, a distilled mess of my disappointment wrapped up in your rage, your pain at the years of needing, searching, longing for the respect you deserved with every atom spinning inside you. And I remember our first visit and how I geared myself up for his ‘wit’ and wore a ‘meeting the parents’ outfit and curled my hair in the long mirror in your Mum’s bedroom. The bedroom with her little white door to the cupboard of treasures where you found the tiny Santa from your childhood and broke down in the days before it was my turn.
And in the afternoon you’d visited him while I poured over photos with your Mum and as usual you tried to talk to him, to aim to connect, a hope to reach him on that level and as usual made a little progress and we visited later and ate delicately arranged food. And he was in full effect and I was bating it all back, making them laugh, giving as good as I got and you knew I could take him on in my own way and you both liked it. And it was alright as I bought into the long standing issues and we dissected it all into the early hours and we were at the very start.
And the morning afterwards your Mum would quiz us on what happened and what had been said. Always needing reassurance because the second wife could cook and host and the house had doilies and rugs and a little gong to call us in for dinner. But it couldn’t have mattered less, it couldn’t have been more irrelevant, because she was where the love was, the unconditional understanding, immeasurably for you and not far behind for us.
And I couldn’t relate to it, all your issues were alien and strange. It wasn’t a pattern I’d grown up with. You’d already met my Dad, you saw the love, the always-there-ness of a way you craved and all the established visits on Fathers day because they were relatively local and we could. And in all the silliness of presents for Grandad you must have felt the loss of the relationship you sought so much but you focussed on your own job then, receiving your own carefully chosen or handmade card and some bit of nonsense that would get lost in the house. And the day was marked as you developed your softer punch down the years, as you became the dad you didn’t have.

Now I drift here surrounded by four fathers, yours who still brings out a rage in me, though I have to remember your last chat in the month before, when you stumbled to a reasonable place and shared the book that he quoted from one month later when our son wore the shirt again.
Mine, who has only ever been there, even when he wasn’t. Who has tried his best to support us though these months of hell despite the agony of not being able to make it better and who I just can’t visit on Fathers day because I can’t take our son into that environment of memories, to open cards that underline our pain, so for the second year avoidance was the way through. There’s not much I’ve avoided in this new world but to stay away then made the day more manageable.
And you’re the third father, finding your way, becoming the silly Daddy that only we saw and instilling in him a love of many things that are just showing through now. And now I come unstuck
and can’t find the words, can’t express the emotions triggered by remembered conversations and how you wouldn’t allow yourself to be like him and you were different and we knew it and I’ll make sure our son knows it in the years ahead. And it’s that bit, that part that I can’t compute, doing your part too for you but I can feel you, I can sense you guiding me.

I hold him carefully, filling him with a knowledge, a sense of love and respect and guide him through the love to find who he is growing into, in this world that neither of us knew. My Dad is with me, I’ve grown as an adult surrounded by love with him still there physically, you grew as an adult with your Dad there physically but absent in too many ways but our sons world is very different.
He has a new experience, one neither of us can relate to, he is growing up, growing into the loss, his sense of self is being carved out now, the man he will become is formed of these moments and a world without you physically. But god knows you hold him and encase in him in love at a level we can’t understand and as long as there’s breath in my body I will show him who you were and feed him the love and respect that you gave him without bounds. He will know a different level of love to the lives we lived through, he has a different journey and the years ahead and the love around will allow him to be who he needs to be.

And one day maybe, he’ll be the fourth father, as I hear him waking now on the day he’s going to write about Star Trek, because that helps us both and I think he understands its part of his grieving.
And one day he may take all that we have given him, assimilate the pain and joy and become a father too, feeling the thread that connects us all, imperceptibly, undeniably linking through the life and love he has known, becoming more than his experience, protected by the love that holds us close now.
And whoever he becomes, father or not, he will know, he will feel our pride, our respect, he will feel the love surround him.

There’s more to fatherhood than physical presence.