I convocated from McGill for my Masters the other week. Both of my siblings have Masters (What a costly bunch of kids we all are), but this was actually the first Masters convocation my mom has been to. The three of us are square for grad photos with my dad though since he hasn’t gotten to go to any of our Masters ceremonies (note: our parents did go to each of our undergrad ceremonies).
Going through this whole convocation experience (spending a few days in Montreal, ceremony, photos afterwards with friends, etc.) wasn’t all that different from everything else we’ve been going through; I guess we’re “getting used” to him not being there. My mom and I recently went to Costa Rica for vacation and while we did talk about him a lot, it didn’t feel like a detrimental amount of “a lot”. [This piece does a nice job expressing why people talk about their dead loved ones regularly.]
Obviously, I’d rather have my dad be alive and with us, but with each of my siblings upcoming marriages and whenever I finally have my first adult job and our houses and all of these milestones, we’re getting used to just missing him.
When my mom and I were doing the six-hour drive back to Toronto from Montreal, I was thinking about how fun it was to be with my friends again and how so many of our parents met each other. I thought about my interactions and how I felt about them, particularly with everybody’s dads being there. In the end, I felt very okay.
I remember in my bereavement group that I took part of this past semester, many of the people had lost their fathers to some sort of sickness and many of them didn’t seem to have very good support systems in their friends or families. It came up that their friends would complain about their dads and they (the person who had lost their dad) would think (perhaps even say), “At least you have your father.”
While in Montreal those few days, I saw my friends interacting with their parents, and as in common with people in their mid-20s (or maybe even older), we’re at this weird stage where we’ve gone to live in different cities from our parents but they still treat us as children. Parents are also getting to that older, cumbersome age where they’re so stuck in their ways and are vocal when they find that we have a different way of living. We lump it and move on, but we roll our eyes at them, and for some reason, it’s almost always dads that are the grumpier Guses that cause us a little more grief with their stubborn nagging.
Reflecting on my friends dads, I wondered if I had ever felt a ping of “at least you have a dad here to annoy you”, but I didn’t. Even without my dad physically here to do those similarly annoying things, I can still relate (note: I love my dad through and through, but everyone can be annoying), but I suppose most of all the fact is that every situation is different. There’s a whole other discussion that can be had about not everyone having to love their parents, but here I’d just like to say that despite the loss that I’ve had, everyone else is still entitled to talk about their issues.
It’s like when a skinny or average-bodied person expresses self-esteem issues about their body. I’ve been told and heard other girls be told “You’re not allowed to complain; you’re small”. Well, yes, I’m not obese but I can still have issues and because you’re my friend, I should be allowed to talk about my feelings. And so if you want to talk about your dad, the good or the bad, you’re allowed to, because just because mine isn’t here anymore doesn’t change your situation. Just because I’d love my dad to be at convocation doesn’t mean I can or should ignore the presence of yours. Just because my dad doesn’t get to still be here and do “SIGH, did you really HAVE to do that?” things doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about how your dad annoyingly did this or that.
I think, personally, my friends have gotten used to me and how I constantly talk about my dad (and my whole family, I will note; I’m not only obsessed with anecdotes about him) so they know that they’re “allowed” to talk about their dads. And I think it’s not anyone’s fault in particular if you feel the “At least you…” way; I think it comes from a place where that person wasn’t there for you in the way that you needed and so hurt and a lack of understanding begets more hurt and a lack of understanding.
Like usual, I’m probably speaking from a point of privilege where my people have cared for me and allowed me to take care of my feelings, so I don’t mind when they have theirs. Hopefully more, rather than few, of you are in the same boat so that when these milestones appear where you’d rather have your loved ones, it doesn’t feel so resentful and bitter that others have their loved ones and you don’t.
But I’m still staying the F away from social media this Sunday when it’s Father’s day. I know my limits.