There are quite a few American holidays that leave me both incredibly confused and that I shy away from doing anything meaningful with. As a Kemetic living in a modern society, I do wish to incorporate public, national holidays into my Kemetic calendar. While I will still attempt to have festivities that are Kemetic only, I also want to have religious holidays for some of the larger public holidays. This way, my calendar will flow along with the calendar my son will be utilizing when he begins school in the fall and so that he won’t look “too odd” when compared to the rest of his compatriots. I also want to do this because, as the years go by and I honor the akhu of those who helped to (A) found this very nation and (B) found this particular area of this nation, I have found myself becoming more and more interested in nationwide holidays: Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, and things of that nature. However, there are other national holidays, like this one, that I have purposely been ignoring because I have a love-hate relationship with them.
And for the last [nearly] twenty-three years, I have had a major love-hate relationship with Father’s Day.
As a child, I can remember being incredibly isolated when it came to Father’s Day. It wasn’t my classmates’ fault or the fault of my teachers that my father died when I was seven. However, I can remember feeling very left out from all of the discussions about what people did with their dads and what presents they gave their dads for the holiday. While my mother did an excellent job with the double duty, I have to say that it was still uncomfortable for me to even remotely acknowledge that this was a holiday and one that everyone else (besides me, it felt) could or would celebrate it. I have to admit that most, if not all, of my classmates had the two parent dynamic that was pretty standard in the 80s: you had a mom and you had a dad. While it’s possible some of those fathers and mothers lived apart because of divorce, though I can’t recall any one of my elementary school classmates who went through that particular difficult time, I know that I was the only one who had a father and then had him die on me. So, I really did not like Father’s Day and I would often remain coldly remote in the back of the classroom while everyone discussed what they did for their dads. I got to hear the stories about dads getting breakfast in bed and getting ties and spending quality time together at Riverside Park. I heard it all and sat quietly in my ice castle, ignoring the fact that this holiday was real and wounded me deeply.
As I grew older, I remained very remote in my ice castle. There is absolutely no other way to describe it. As a pre-teen and teenager, I found other people whose parents were gone from them either because of divorce or death, but it still remained a very painful holiday for me. I would think of all the really awesome, cool things I could have done with my dad for the holiday and have to remind myself that would never happen. It wasn’t just that I had a single parent but because, in all reality, I knew my dad wasn’t that kind of person. He wouldn’t have done the breakfast in bed thing. He wouldn’t have wanted a tie (probably more like a flannel, plaid shirt). He probably would not have taken my brother and I to Riverside Park for fun and festivities. Logic dictates to me that no matter what other kids did with their parents, it wouldn’t have happened in my life even if my father had been alive. And even though I can still see that logical side to things, I still absolutely have a love-hate relationship with this damn holiday.
Even though, TH is now a father and we celebrate things with his family, I still feel very remote. I still feel like I am in my isolated ice castle, looking around at all of these people with fathers. I know intrinsically that this is a falsehood. Many of my online friends have mentioned their relationships with their fathers and step-fathers, not all of which are good. Many of my in-real-life friends have very difficult relationships with their fathers and step-fathers. The Sister’s father has been dead almost her entire life, so she can kind of get it. But, she’s also lucky in the step-father she has. They have a really awesome (and jealousy inducing) relationship. And just looking at how awful and rocky TH’s relationship with his dad and step-dad can and has been shows me that I am not the only person who has been and will be aching by the time this day is over. But, even with the knowledge that I am literally not alone here, I still feel like I am living in an ice castle, crusts of pain etching my heart.
The thing is that I have to move to a place beyond this.
Today is Father’s Day and my daddy is in Heaven. (One day, I will discuss his being in Heaven and my being Kemetic, but that is not today.)With all of my akhu veneration, my father gets a large chunk of what I do. While I have other immediate relatives who had gone into the West, he was the first one of mine to do so. And he was the man who was supposed to sit on the front porch with a shotgun, keeping all the boys at bay that I was supposedly going to bring knocking on our door. He wasn’t able to do that (and sometimes, I am quite angry that he wasn’t), but he is still a part of who I am, who I will be, and the values that I teach my son in future. In maintaining my relationship with him after his passing, it has been a very difficult and harrowing road most of the time. Years of atheism and years of believing in reincarnation have attempted to complete the gaping void his passing has opened within me. Honestly, it’s only been with the deep delving into akhu veneration that I have done that has provided me with the comfort and strength and hope that I had always been looking for. So, it’s really not very surprising that it is to my father, that stalwart man of my youth, that I turn to most often when it comes to what I do, how I do it, and when I do it for my akhu venerating. He gets the most cemetery visits. He gets the choicest offerings that I am able to provide. He also gets the most thought from me and the most prayers from me. In a weird way, even though I am venerating other peoples’ ancestors with my grave-tending, it is to him that I think of the most as I snap pictures of the graves that I visit and as I leave my offerings to feed their souls. I guess in a weird way, I have my father to thank for how intense my akhu veneration is. And it is to my father, I suppose, that I dedicate each visit, each picture, each offering, each remembered name.
And it is because of him that this holiday is now, finally, becoming both just as painful and less painful as it always has been throughout the years.
It is to my father that I dedicate the working I will do with the akhu this evening. This is the akhu of all fathers, both good and bad, both short-term and long-term, who have passed into the West. It is with my father in mind that I will create offerings of the choicest meats, the choicest vegetables, and the choices flowers. It is to my father, with aid from Anup and the Bawon, that I will create an entire spread for the spirits of fathers who have gone on and it is with my love and my hurt that I will add this holiday into my calendar. And it is with their assistance that I will hopefully be able to find peace and rest from the constant torment I felt as a child as an outsider (for having one one parent) and the constant torment I feel with my anger at his death and the constant torment I feel while living in my isolated ice castle.
I missed you again today when everyone else was talking about how much fun they had with their daddies this weekend. I have to admit that it hurts me terribly that I will never know that sort of joy. And I have to admit that it kind of makes me angry. But I still love you. I still miss you. But, above all, I still love you.
Never doubt that.