How Do You Celebrate Father’s Day Without Your Father?

Celebrating Father's Day when you're a dad is typically pretty easy - sit back and act surprised at your tie/bottle of booze/macaroni greeting card, and reflect on how good it feels to be helping raise one or more decent human beings.

Basking in the glow of Father’s Day when your own parent is gone can be a little more difficult. Even if you’re not a dad yourself, you know the impact that a man who helped raise you has over your perspective, your behavior, who you are as a man. If your father was never a part of your life, well, you’re likely reminded of this even more frequently.

I lost my own father 13 years ago this year. It was around Christmas time in 2004, and an unfortunate auto accident took his life. The ongoing lack of his presence in my life forever affected me as a man.

There is a rite of passage, whether you want it or not, when your father dies. You have a place to fill, a void, footsteps to fall into — or move away from, depending on how you related to the man and his guidance. Even if you did not get along with your father, his not being in your life affects you.

Personally, I take the occasion of Father’s Day to remember him, to forgive myself for those times when I didn’t feel like hanging out with him, to laugh at the times he acted like the absent-minded professor that he was, to acknowledge that he was just a man; he made mistakes, he wasn’t always right about things, but he was my dad and I miss him every day.

I ask myself, honestly, would he be proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished? I ponder with absolute confidence how much he’d love and enjoy my two daughters, the oldest of whom he only knew for two years before he died. While he was alive, she was a bright, bright spot in his life before the tragic end.

Ultimately, I use all of this as a reminder about how important my role as a father is. Someday, I won’t be here and I don’t want this annual day to be painful for my children. I want them to use it as an occasion to honor the time we had together. It’s a helpful recharge on my daily mission as a provider, support system, and hopefully a source of some good times for them now and every day I’m on this planet.

Honoring your father on Father’s Day doesn’t require his physical presence. What’s important is that you simply do it.