Sunday, June 17, 2012

Remembering Fathers No Longer With Us

I spent a lot of time this past week, discussing Father’s Day with many people. The consensus was, despite our culture’s ever-present push to sell more stuff, that the day really isn’t about things, or better gifts bought, or even what to grill on the barbecue or where to enjoy breakfast with the family.

It’s about people, not the latest products.

Those most poignant comments evoked in these discussions were from those who no longer had their fathers here to honor on this day. I fall into that group. So does my husband. And so do many, many others. For people such as these, Father’s Day brings memories of someone gone—sometimes a father long gone—and, occasionally, even feelings of regret.

I think many of us, once we get to a certain point, wish we had thought less of ourselves and our needs and plans, and more of those others who weren’t, after all, going to be here with us forever. We wish we had asked more questions. Stayed to listen some more. Paid attention when that was the very thing craved anyhow.

Of course, those engaged in family history research are keyed in to these thoughts all the time—it doesn’t take a Father’s Day celebration to prompt us to wish we had done so for many of our relatives now gone. We wish we knew more about not only our father, but our mother, our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and the many generations trailing back from them. We wish—as if Time hadn’t been able to separate us from doing so—that we could connect with all these people so vital to our past.

I found it a rather melancholy remembrance to discover one particular Father’s Day card tucked away in my husband’s grandmother’s papers. Agnes Tully Stevens saved so many bits of memorabilia, it is true—stuff that many people would have trashed in subsequent decades. But these bits of mere paper held a deeper meaning to her: they recalled the people who were most important in her life.

I know from her many saved letters that her son Frank—my father-in-law whom I never met—was very important to her. The fact that I now have so many of the letters he wrote during World War II attest to her concern for her boy. But these saved bits of paper went so far beyond mere worry for his safety. They represented a bond of love between parents and their children.

One card in Agnes’ papers—uncharacteristically not saved with its postmarked envelope—was meant not for her, but for the husband who was no longer there with her. It was a Father’s Day card, true, but it was signed from “From Mr. + Mrs. F. X. Stevens + family.” That could only mean a delivery date subsequent to that father’s passing in 1946, as Frank and Norma weren’t married until 1949. Besides, the one who permitted them to sign, “and family” was their firstborn, John Kelly Stevens, who didn’t arrive on the family scene until late in 1950. The soonest this card could have been sent was for Father’s Day in 1951—five years after Will Stevens died.

Though the card is worded as if to a living father, the intent is the same: a family who missed their father and thought about him often, year after year, especially on this special day.

There are a lot of us who miss our dads and what they meant to us. Yet another tie or pair of slippers—not even the newest gadget or tool or fishing tackle—could supplant the best gift we could give our fathers if we still had the chance to give it: the gift of our gratitude and the present of our presence.

My Spiritual Bouquet for Father

This Father’s Day,
The gift I offer you is a remembrance in the
celebrated in our Church
For you and your intentions
to thank you
for your love and devotion!

From Mr. + Mrs. F. X. Stevens + family

May the Sacred Heart, the Source of all Love
help me always be a source of happiness
to such a wonderful Dad!


  1. This is beautiful! And so very true. Thank you for sharing your stories and for the reminder to cherish and learn from people while we have them close by ...

  2. I agree, my Husband had a really hard time on Father's was a time of reflection for him. My Dad and Mother are off traveling..I reached them by cell phone and they were too busy to talk very sometimes it is the parent that is too occupied not the child:(

  3. What a wonderful, and telling thing for Frank to have done. I suspect his inner demons, were in part, missing his father for all those War years.

    I spent Father's day with my father. We did some boat-related stuff together and I had a nice day.


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