Father’s Day Without a Father

By Cameron Kubera

Each year, I forget Father’s Day exists until the week of, when a friend mentions having to pick up a last minute gift or I’m perusing my Google calendar and happen to see that Sunday flagged as a holiday. Then I sit and wait for its impending arrival.

It’s not a holiday in my family. My family members without dads, for whatever reasons, usually assemble in person: the cousins with divorced and estranged dads; my mom and her siblings whose father died seven years ago; and my grandmother and her siblings with long-gone parents. Amid COVID-19, I imagine this coming Sunday will look a lot different. Already isolating for people without fathers, fathers without children, and anyone else who associates the holiday with pain and discomfort, Father’s Day will likely be much more challenging this year.

Author Cameron Kubera

The unity and solidarity of my family on most Father’s Days is unique in my matriarchal family. But in lieu of an in-person connection this year, I anticipate falling back on some of the hard work I’ve been doing throughout quarantine. In the many days of sitting idly in my home, I’ve done a lot of activities which unexpectedly brought continued healing on my grief journey.

My mom found bags of old photos, some of which I’d never seen before, including a great one of my dad and me. While I grieved this loss of the end of my senior year of college, I recognized the tender spots that still remain from grief over my dad, which helped me focus on them directly for the first time in a while. I cleaned out my closet, which used to be his, and donated some of his old hats I had previously been unwilling to part with, while incorporating some of his old comfy clothes in my new quarantine wardrobe. One sweater, in particular.

Grief over the loss of normalcy, routine, and community has been very real for the past few months, and it feels almost unfair to have to engage with another kind of grief: the loss of a father. How much can one really bear? All I know is that I’m still standing after these few months and I’m still around after losing my dad 10 years ago. Grief compounds. New grief triggers old grief. But the same pro-social tools and healthy coping mechanisms that have pushed me along for the past 10 years have also helped me get through the past four months. It is painful, but I know I will get through this Sunday, too.