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Fathers and Fudgsicles

"I wasn't there that morning, when my father passed away. I didn't get to tell him, all the things I had to say. I think I caught his spirit later that same year. I'm sure I heard his echo in my baby's new born tears. I just wish I could have told him in the living years."

-Mike And The Mechanics, "The Living Years"

Funny how a distant memory can be stirred up when you least expect it. A few days ago, I stopped in to the grocery store to pick up a few last minute items we had run out of and some Father’s Day cards for my hubs and his dad. As I spun around and headed toward the checkout aisle there was a promotional case featuring all the frozen treats on a ‘buy-one-get-one-free-with-your-super-shopper-discount-card’ special. In the frosty case glazed with ice I noticed that stacked in-between the Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches and Nutty Buddies were boxes and boxes of Fudgsicles. I caught my breath and immediately thought of my dad…and then, instantaneously, I also thought about being sick. Not necessarily cancer sick, just regular cold, flu, ear infection, tonsillitis sick.

When I was a little girl, and I would get sick, my dad would come home from work with a box of sweet, chocolaty, creamy Fudgsicles. He did that every single time I was home with some sort of sniffle or fever. He would walk into my room, holding the colorful yellow polka-dotted box behind his back, kiss my forehead and ask if I was feeling up for a little treat after I’d finished my chicken noodle soup. My eyes would light up because, by the time I was 5 I knew he was holding that box of Fudgsicles behind his back. No matter how sick I was – I was never too sick to have a Fudgsicle.

My dad died when I was 7 and it took me years to eat Fudgsicles again. In fact, I never bought them until I had my own kids but I never told them about how my dad would always bring them home for me. Instead I kept that memory locked up tight and to myself…so that they would just be Fudgsicles. A simple chocolate pop on a stick. Take ‘em or leave ’em. I didn’t want to give them dessert weighted down with the burden of my childhood memories.

I remember during the wedding years (you know – the years after college where you seem to be attending a wedding every month) I would always excuse myself during the father - daughter dance and go to the nearest bathroom and sob privately. I knew, that when it came time for my turn to walk down that aisle and dance that special dance, my dad wouldn’t be there to hold my hand, make me laugh, and tell me how beautiful I looked and how lucky my soon-to-be husband is. It was as if I had lost him all over again. My therapist at the time explained that I mourned him as a child and handled the loss as a child but I had to give myself time to grieve him again as an adult. Makes sense I guess, and by the time my wedding did come I was able to honor his memory instead of weeping for him.

The cancer years weren’t much better. I thought of him often….and not always under the best circumstances. On the tough days I wondered if I would be joining him sooner rather than later. I frequently wondered if he was watching over me giving me the strength to get through each day, one at a time, when it would have been so much easier to cash in my chips and fade away. And then there were the days after chemo that I thought about the Fudgsicles.

And now I’m typing this with tears running down my face…so many emotions coming up that I’m not ready to entertain. I just wanted to write about the Fudgsicles.

Had my dad been around during my chemo treatments I know, for sure, he would have showed up with them, knowing full well they wouldn’t make me better, but they would make me smile. He’d be right there, holding my hand and talking to me about anything other than cancer. He’d find ways to make me laugh even if some days it felt as if I lost my funny bone along with my boobs and my hair. He would have been there to take my kids out for the day, maybe for ice cream, maybe for Fudgsicles, or maybe they would have had their own special treat that they would enjoy together. I don’t know how things would have turned out if he hadn’t died, if the doctors had found a way to save his life after his heart attack. I can imagine what it would have been like…to have a relationship with him as an adult instead of a child but I’ll never know for sure.

I loved my dad fiercely…daddy’s girl is an understatement when I think back to how we were together; same sense of humor, same love of tormenting the ones closest to us, the same love of anchovies, family, the ocean and sharks. No patience at all for drama, theatrics, or being disingenuous.

So on this Father’s Day weekend, if you are still lucky enough to have your dad tell him you love him and remind him of the little things he did for you as a kid, things you won’t ever forget. If you are a dad, buy your kid a box of Fudgsicles, or Nutty Buddies, or whatever treat they like best and make memories that they will carry with them through the surly teenage years and into adulthood. If you're missing your dad as I am, think of him and remember the sweet times you shared - however brief they may have been.

Happy Father’s Day.

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