The First Father’s Day Without My Dad

Bear with me — I promise, there are recipes at the end of the tunnel.

When someone in your life dies, you embark upon the well-worn path of a year of “firsts”. People who’ve gotten there before you, who’ve lost someone central to their lives, will tell you about what it’s like to maneuver through that initial 12 months of “this is the first year that ______ hasn’t been at ___________.”

me and dad

Our firsts began before even dad died, during the half a year between diagnosis and the end.  There was the first time he wasn’t at Thanksgiving, his favorite holiday of the year.  My mom and sister took him to the hospital.  I watched them shut the ambulance doors and then turned around and stayed behind with the 30 guests we had invited, having known it was probably the last one and having hoped for the best. Well-meaning relatives and friends helped reheat and serve and make gravy, following my lead as I put on the mantle of cheerful hostess, pouring wine, delegating tasks, assuring everyone that  he would want us all to carry on, and pretending this was all ok.  My hands shook as I carved the turkey, which was always Dad’s job.

The first time he wasn’t at the office holiday party, the first time he missed a grandkid’s school play. And now he’s gone, and the official year of firsts lies in front of us like an emotional Navy Seal obstacle course.

My father was brilliant and generous and very hard to please. I kind of felt like I had my best shot at it in the kitchen, and when he would dig into a piece of apple streusel pie or a plate of ribs and grin with pleasure, it was….well, frankly embarrassingly gratifying and validating. In the acknowledgements for my book, I confessed that “my parents’ opinions matter to me than anyone else’s, with the exception of my husband. I don’t think it’s always healthy but it’s just true.”

So, a huge first is careening down the road; the first Father’s Day without a father. Still doesn’t penetrate, doesn’t seem real, doesn’t register. But I know when I am cooking for Gary this coming Sunday, it’ll just have to be understood that I am still cooking for my dad, too. And luckily they both love pie.

A Father’s Day Menu for Gary

22 thoughts on “The First Father’s Day Without My Dad”

  1. Renee says:

    Last year was my first Father’s Day without my dad. It’s a hard day to get through and i don’t think this year will be any easier. Perhaps it will be easier as the years pass on. The good thing is you have the memories and the recipes that your dad enjoyed so much. I’m sure he is standing beside you in the kitchen or watching over you while you prepare them for your husband and family.

  2. Lisa says:

    This is the second Father’s Day without my dad and it isn’t any easier. I have lost both of my parents and miss them more than words can EVER express. I talk with my parents all the time and it helps me! Cook that pie for your dad and muddle through the day the best way you know how. I wish I could say it gets easier, but for year two, it is just as painful for me!

    1. Thank you, Lisa. I know it will be a crappy day, and hope you muddle through yours, too.

  3. Thank you, Renee. I’ll just cook my way through it.

  4. Awww, you made me cry, I want to come give you a hug. The firsts are so damn hard. Seconds aren’t much better.

    1. there’s strange comfort in knowing that one is not alone though….but I am thinking of all of you, too, and wishing you didn’t have to miss your dads on this day, or any day.

  5. Tory says:

    You constantly amaze me. You have such grace and your stories are always poignant, hysterically funny and I can “hear” you when I read them. I didn’t really know Peter — not in any true way…..but your tributes to him are so beautiful…..

    You are the incredible woman that you are, in part, because of him. He must have been a truly amazing man……

    I love hearing you…..
    Tory

    1. xoxo, thank you so much.

  6. Cath says:

    Will be thinking of you this weekend. I know Gary will do an exceptional job fulfilling your dad’s legacy by eating all of that delicious food you are serving. Plus he has back-up with the boys to carry on. You will find so much joy watching them devour each morsel. All in tribute of Peter!

    1. Thanks, Cath. I am definitely not worried about the food being eaten!

  7. The first year is so hard. I know from my own losses. Hang in there and take a minute to yourself this Sunday to celebrate your Dad and toast to him. You look like him in that picture and he looks like a handsome, warm and loving Dad. Cheers to your Pop’s memory and to you this Father’s Day weekend. He does live on in you, but that doesn’t make it easier. I like what Renee said about him watching over you while you make meals…and his favorite pies.

    1. Thanks so much for your thoughtful note!

  8. jenny says:

    Such a good post, Katie. I feel the same way about my parents — still the most important opinions out there.

    And I am so making pie this weekend.

    1. thanks, jenny. And so make pie. xxx

  9. -Anonymous (a little scared of your sister) says:

    I think this is a truly great tribute to your dad. Among his many exceptional qualities, Peter really knew how to enjoy a good rib! It would be wonderful if you could forge ahead in this spirit by convincing your vegetarian sister and nieces to continue along this line of rib-thinking.

    Anonymous and a bit scared of your sister
    Not your brother-in-law

  10. mai-ling says:

    It’ll be my first father’s day without my father as well. It’s only been 3 months since he passed. It’s the same feeling with my first mother’s day without my mom 3 years ago. Every holiday doesn’t feel right. It doesn’t get easy quickly but takes time getting used to. Hang in there.

  11. Katie, my heart weeps with you. Your dad sounds like he was an amazing guy who fully embraced life as a Renaissance Man. His legacy continues through you as you share his life and love of food with others. Perhaps both of our dads will toast each other this Father’s Day and send a “hug from heaven” our way. Keeping you in my prayers.

    1. thanks, Margaret! he was great.

  12. Sally says:

    I can tell you from experience that it does get easier over time. How much time probably varies from person to person. I found that the first year was rough, after that it got easier.

    I do think it gets easier when we let it get easier or help it get easier. When we’re still grieving and wishing that things were the way they used to be, it doesn’t get easier. The only thing that happens is that time passes. When you embrace the new normal and maybe do some things differently or establish new traditions, it gets easier.

    1. Great advice. I am so appreciating the amazing support of friends. It’s quite a thing. xx

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