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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day

Father’s Day
June, 2004

“I had a premonition about you even before we found out your mom was pregnant. I see a big head of dark hair like your mother. You are going to be so cute…”

July 14, 2003: Sean wrote in a journal after seeing the first ultrasound of Fiona in utero. He wanted to write often and eventually give Fiona the journal when she was 16.

June 17, 2012:
I used to love Father’s Day. That first holiday after Fiona was born, I imprinted her chubby hands in a clay craft store kit attached to a picture frame. The photo displays Fiona’s apple cheeks, thick, dark hair and white cotton stripey dress. That bambina’s face would turn any daddy’s heart to Cream of Wheat. Fiona and Sean were smitten.  She would plant her toothless mouth on Daddy’s chin and gum him as if sucking milk from a breast. Sean would laugh and say, “Look – she’s eating me!”

We learned one year after Fiona was born we were pregnant again. We waited several weeks after the five months’ gestation ultrasound to open an envelope revealing our baby’s sex. Our family of three picnicked at Manito Park.  Dessert was carrot cake on which I’d written, “It’s a….” I ripped open the envelope and showed Sean the word, ‘boy.’ He was stunned. “But we don’t make boys,” he’d said. “We make girls. Look – we made Fiona.” I wrote b-o-y on the cake in thin orange icing.

Finley emerged, a robust bundle of noise, and later, of dirt and boundless energy. Sean relished his father role. It was his highest calling and greatest joy. Sean had grown up largely without a father. He never knew his biological dad. Finally having his first child, at age 42, had closed the circle and fulfilled his father-need. He knew he couldn’t choose his birth family. He could create his own.  

Today marks the third Father’s Day without Sean. Each year, I grow more grateful for my own Dad - the man who told me so often I could be anything, do anything – I grew to believe it. I billow with gratitude for his unconditional father-love.  I mourn the loss of that love for my children. And I watch them, month after month, burgeon like beanstalks, shedding teeth, learning new words, getting taller, bigger, stronger. I delight in their development and mourn the fact their Daddy isn’t here to watch.
Dec. 13, 2009 - Sean's out of hospital for a few hours

We have a new man in our lives – my Kiwi partner, Pete.  He could exert a bigger influence on my children than Sean. It’s an awesome responsibility, this male role model choice. Pete’s father died when he was six, so he may be closing his own circle by attaching to a widow with two children.
Feb., 2012 - with Kiwi Pete at Mills Reef, Bay of Plenty, NZ

We all need dads – and stepfathers, uncles, coaches, big brothers. We need all of you.

My son, Finley recently came home from school with a drawing of Sean. Finley said,
Finley's Daddy drawing, June, 2012
                "We drew a Father's Day picture in school today and I'm gonna give mine to Daddy...I'm the only one who gets to punch a hole through it and tie a balloon on."

My heart sank, then floated. Finley said these words with a six-year-old’s surety this is a good and proper thing for Father’s Day when your daddy’s dead.

If you’re lucky enough to have a loving father who’s alive and walking planet Earth – thank him. Let him know how important he was and is. Marinate in gratitude for your gift. Not all of us enjoy the luxury of a living father. Some children, like mine, rely on stories, pictures and words to remember the man who gave them life.
Sean reassures Fiona on her 1st day of kindergarten, Sept., 2009

Sean’s journal to Fiona – July 14, 2003:
Ask to see some pictures – I’m sure there will be thousands. Dawn loves to document all our travels. We have been so many places…hopefully you will see them also.
Today is the beginning…I already love you…see you soon.

Postscript: June 17, 2012: After dinner, Finley asks, "Is Petey coming here?" I reply, "I think so. I hope so. Do you miss Petey?" Finley says, "Yeah. Are you gonna marry him?"
[Spit take goes here] I say, "I'd like to. We'll see how it goes after we get back to New Zealand."
Finley asks, "Can I call him Dad?" I say, "You already have a dad." Finley responds, "My real dad is Daddy. Petey can be Dad."
We'll see, Finn. We'll see.
Happy Father's Day, everyone.


  1. I am shedding tears now too Dawn. That is beautiful precious writing. Talking with you this AM and seeing those incredible kiddos I do remember my Daddy so well. Happy Father's Day everyone.

    1. Polly,
      I always enjoy talking with you. You have a way of making life seem so funny, real and do-able! I love your outlook. Thanks, too, for taking time to read what I've written and to respond.

  2. This is one of the best pieces you've ever written, Dawn. You capture the bitter and the sweet so powerfully, so poignantly, so perfectly. Well done, my friend.

    Such a great photo of Sean with Fi. It captures his tenderness so well. He was a great guy. --Kellie

    1. Aw, Kellie - thanks! It's always nice to get compliments from fellow writers. I do love that picture of Sean with Fiona. He was a great father and husband - we're lucky to have had him for the time we did - though you always, always want more...

  3. Absolutely precious on all counts, Dawn! You and your kiddos were blessed with Sean and now so blessed with "Petey". The Lord truly restores what the locusts have eaten...tenfold. Prayers for you and the wee ones...Pete, too!

    1. Suzanne, That saying it great! I did, in fact, many times during Sean's illness and after he died, say I was waiting for the plague of locusts. I've stopped waiting for them. Instead, I watch for cockroaches in NZ. That's another story for another time :)

  4. Beautiful!! I wish I'd read this on Father's Day, as I was thinking of you all that day. Love the way you wove the journal entries with Seans's. Crying...you are so amazing, Dawn.
    Thanks for your thoughts about dads, too. I treasure mine more with each passing year. Day, even.