Yesterday was Father’s Day here in Japan.
I bought some blank little books with nice white covers from Muji and had the kids write stories for their dad. Instead of wrapping them I got a plain A4 sized bag from the same store to put it in and let them decorate it with fabric markers. For Jiji (aka my FIL), I had the kids each draw a picture and then put it in a little folding frame.
The kids liked the idea of the stuff for Dad. When it came time to draw a picture of Jiji, though, Me Too was less than enthused. She came back with a brown circle.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“Poop,” she answered.
We couldn’t exactly give Jiji a framed pic o’poop for Father’s Day, so I had her try again. It was a real half-ass effort. Brother did a good job, though, so the project was salvageable.
And that was Father’s Day, brought to you for less than $10.
I spent a lot of the day trying not to think too much about my own father. He never put much stock into “Hallmark Holidays.” But sometimes the harder you try not to think of something, the harder it is to put it from your mind.
I got to thinking (first mistake) and I can’t seem to remember one thing I ever gave Dad for Father’s Day. There must have been something, more or less every year. Cards? Gift certificates? I vaguely recall something about golf club head covers, but that could have been a birthday thing….
Some great daughter I was, huh?
When we were going through Dad’s things, after he died but before the funeral extravaganza, I found a Father’s Day card to his dad from 1951, signed “Love, Wee Roy.” 1951 would have been Fred’s first Father’s Day. (I never met him so I don’t think I could call him Grandpa.) They’d been married for a lot of years before my Dad came along. That card was a long time coming. It must have felt pretty good.
Then there’s the whole “Wee Roy” bit. My dad wasn’t tall, but what he lacked in stature he made up for in brawn. And personality. Nothing wee about the man, that’s for sure.
For whatever reason, both Fred and my Dad’s middle name was Leroy. As I’m sure you can imagine, this caused quite a bit of confusion. (For my international readers: Leroy was a popular name in the fifties and sixties for black men. Which my dad wasn’t.)
Sometimes fancy folks would try to dress that name up and call him LeRoy, with the emphasis on the last syllable. Of course being addressed like the King of France was no better for my dad since it probably made him afraid somebody was gonna try and cut his head off.
I remember being at a commencement ceremony for my dad, who was receiving his master’s degree in divinity. (Incidently, this did not make him divine although he did insist on being called “master” for several weeks afterward.)
Dad was next in line. The presidente of the seminary, or whoever he was, with all his fancy robes, white hair, and spectacles balanced by some miracle of God there on the tip of his nose, looks at my dad. He looks at the name on the diploma. He looks at Dad again. He then mispronounces Dad’s name as LeRoy.
Dad accepts the diploma, but in doing so leans over the podium and mutters in his best Georgia boy accent, “I’m just a Leroy.” Then back straight and eyes forward he walks strongly off the podium and back to his seat.
And I don’t know if I ever felt more proud.
In my imagination, in that strange, dim place where I meet people I’ve never met and bring people together who no longer walk this earth, I see Fred. He’s tall and stocky, black-and-white. I see him balance Wee Roy on his knee as he opens that card. He tries to hide a smile. He’s just as proud and happy as me at the commencement all those years ago.
Then the door closes and I’m left again without either of them.
Father’s Day is different when your father has passed on. It’s more of a day of reflection, of regret. For me there is still a lot of grief and sadness. But I got to be with my Dad for 33 years, which is a lot more than Fred had with Wee Roy.
For that, I am thankful.
And maybe one day, if we meet in that dim place, I’m gonna have some fun teasing them and calling them both Wee Roy.