Rob Harris: A few thoughts on my first Father's Day without my dad

A few thoughts on the first Father's Day without my dad

Six years ago, I walked along the Centennial Trail in Spokane not knowing it was a path that would lead to me the place I would call home for the next four years.

I stood on the trail as a high school senior and that is where I first saw Gonzaga University; home to all my college experiences and friends. But, I was the second most excited person that day. It was my dad that was grinning from ear to ear.

This is the first year I have ever thought about Father's Day before the day actually arrives. I was one of those kids who would run to Walgreens that morning and rummage through what they had left and hope to find something, then pretend like that was what I meant to buy. 

Or, maybe I would buy something online and then blame UPS for "shipping it late."  My guess is, my dad knew.

This is the first Father's Day since my dad passed away. He was sick for a long time. He passed away on January 11th this year.

It sounds so cliché, but now I understand the significance of Father's Day.

My dad was in Hospice for a couple months before he passed away. His caretakers would tell my family--when my dad was not in the room--how important it was to have conversations about how much he meant to us and how much we appreciated him.

The thought terrified me. I was horrible at expressing my feelings.

It caught me by surprise because I get paid to talk for a living. I have never had trouble talking to anyone, much less my father, who I had a great relationship with. We could talk about anything. 

However, in that moment, when I was facing telling him what he meant to me, and how much I appreciated him, I just could not do it. It felt really final.

It was also really hard, I think, because we do not do that a lot in our society. We are not trained to really sit down and take a moment and tell people what they mean to us.  And since we do not do it a lot, it is extremely hard to do.

It did not come naturally, and it felt like it was going to be some sort of a really over the top moment. It just was not the relationship my dad and I had at all.  We got a long really well, and we loved each other a lot, but we were not overly mushy or sentimental with each other.

And so, I held it off.  And I held it off. And I held it off.

And, I regret that now.

I did end up telling him all of those things.  It was the night before he died. Actually, a few hours before he died. I had that conversation with him around 9:00 p.m., and he passed away just after midnight.

Then, I sat back and I thought about all of those wasted moments. The moments where I could have had a conversation with him, and where he could have spoken back to me, because when I had that conversation with him he could not talk anymore.


Now, I walk through Gonzaga’s campus and I think about how hard he worked to put me through school. I think about how hard he worked to buy me my car and my clothes, and all of the things I took for granted.

That is what Father's Day is about, right? It is about recognizing your dad and how much he does for you, and saying thank you.

What if we did that always? What if we made a habit of always telling people in the moment what is great about them?

If we did it all the time, it would not be this huge, scary, overly sentimental mushy thing.  It would just be another part of our daily habit. It would just be part of being a human.

Maybe if we did that, then someday there would be no need for Mother's Day, or Father's Day, or Grandparent's Day. It would be like "Brushing Your Teeth" Day.  It would just be honoring something that we do by default.

As it stands right now, though, I do not think we are there. I do not think we tell people thank you enough. I know I did not.

I guess my message is: take advantage of this Father's Day. Use it as the inspiration to start. Let it spark a habit to appreciate people in the moment, in every moment.

Do not waste the chance.

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