Now, I anticipated Father’s Day was going to be hard. I wasn’t even sure my kids would remember or plan. But about a week before the day arrived, I told Belle my concern and she gave me what is now becoming a common phrase: “Have you seen who you’re dating?” And my-oh-my she didn’t disappoint.
It was a difficult day, but I wasn’t crippled with grief. In fact, I find myself wondering why I wasn’t more affected. I think part of it is distance from Joni’s death. I think part of it is also the effort that so many people made to make sure it was a great day. I had my in-laws, Belle, and my dad and his wife over. Belle is a fantastic hostess and made sure we had snacks, a comfortable sitting area, classy dishes, and great food. I got to have thick bone-in steaks just like I wanted (grilled to perfection by yours truly)! The time together was glorious.
But what made it particularly special were the gifts Belle and the kids got me. They know I like to nap in my car on my lunch break occasionally so they got me a great Iron Man blanket (for cold days) and a really great pillow which talks about how I embody characteristics of various heroes. The pillow is even personalized with my name for them: “from The Children of Promise”.
And then the coup de gras. I could tell it was something framed when I picked it up and my suspicions were confirmed as I unwrapped the back of the gift. Then I turned it around and a picture of Joni was smiling at me along with a star registry gift certificate. I cried. “You guys are jerks,” I said to the family. Belle registered a star in Joni’s name. The gift is PERFECT. Her star is a bright star, just like her. And it is part of Ursa Major (the Big Bear), just like Mama Bear.
My tears were not only for the gift itself but also for the gesture. That the woman I’m dating, who knows that part of my heart will always belong to Joni, would be woman enough and secure enough in our relationship to purchase a gift for me that honors Joni? “Niagara Falls, Frankie angel.” (Bonus points if you can name that movie without looking it up.)
I am a truly blessed man in many ways. Navigating these firsts have been hard but, as I said before, not crippling. I still miss Joni in those emotional places where she belonged. And sometimes the sense of longing is so deep and painful I don’t know what to do but sob. But I feel like I’m handling it well and getting through it only because of the love from my kids, my family, and my girlfriend. I see God’s hand all over the place in this process and I’m trying to be more thankful than angry. And sometimes I actually succeed. ;)
Thanks for reading.