When my parents would go out on Saturday nights, I’d always anxiously await their return home because it meant my dad and I could go on one of our “night walks”.
This is what we called our Saturday night ritual.
Just the two of us, strolling the dark streets of Côte Saint-Luc, sometimes quietly, sometimes chatting about nothing in particular, and often, as I got older, talking about the stresses and concerns of school, friends and boys.
It was during these walks, when I had my dad’s unsolicited attention, that he helped me make important decisions and navigate the maze of adolescence and early adulthood.
Our night walks evolved over time. After I moved out, we’d make plans to meet at Mount Royal park with our cameras. We’d walk the mountain, buy bags of peanuts to feed the squirrels, take pictures and talk. Later, our walks often involved a stroller with two tiny babies and a whole new set of worries that needed expression.
My dad wasn’t perfect. He was moody and sometimes short-tempered. He was a strict parent with high expectations and I lived with the constant fear of disappointing him.
But when we walked, he was at his best, softest, kindest self and I felt so lucky to be his daughter.
Father’s Day is tough.
I know it’s a day to honour the other incredible fathers in my life. I have a husband whose devotion to our children knows no bounds, and a father-in-law who has no issue with driving his granddaughter to swim practices on Saturday mornings at 6am. They are generous, patient, amazing role models of what a father and grandfather should be – and they deserve to be celebrated.
But on Father’s Day, I can’t help but feel the enormous weight of my dad’s absence.
I miss so much about my father; his unadulterated joy every time I paid him a surprise visit at work, his massive bear hugs that made me feel safe and protected, the way he positively glowed when he was with his grandchildren. But mostly, I miss our walks, his quiet contemplation of my concerns and the way I always felt a little bit lighter afterwards.
It is said that time heals, and while the raw grief has subsided, with every year that passes I can’t help but feel a little sadder.
It’s getting harder to remember the sound of his voice, the particular smell of the dry-cleaned shirts he preferred folded and starched, and the comfort of advice given from a place of unconditional love.
This year, on Father’s Day, I think I’ll start a new tradition of my own. I’ll wait until it’s dark, grab a kid or two, and go for a walk. We’ll talk about their grandfather, celebrate his memory and, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to make someone feel a little lighter.
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