Father’s Day I went to the cemetery. I hadn’t been since the funeral and would not have thought to go on that particular day if my sister had not asked. She and my brother were taking my mom and asked if I wanted to go. So I did.
On the drive out to my mom’s it occurred to me that people usually take flowers or something decorative when visiting a cemetery. The thought of me taking flowers to my father actually amused me, as he would think that ridiculous. A watermelon would have been more to his liking but I suspected that others who may visit the nearby graves in the following days would not appreciate a rotting melon in the Texas heat. So I took nothing.
I wondered how I would feel when we got there. Emotions have always been difficult for me. Not so much in that emotions are difficult to handle, but rather the fact that I don’t experience a lot of emotion that frequently. I have often found myself feeling simply indifferent in situations where others were overflowing with emotion. Awkward. I’ve many times attempted to feign the appropriate emotion for the circumstances of the moment. Even more awkward. Having never been able to hide my feelings well, when there’s nothing there it comes across through the blank stare, and this just seems downright rude to those who are expecting a response.
This was the first time I had seen his headstone and it suits him. It is plain and simple as he cared nothing about aesthetics; it serves the practical purpose of indicating his name, the span of his life, and the fact that this is where his body was buried. I stood there for a few moments waiting for even a small hint of the emotions that others seem to experience at times like these. Nothing. No particular memories came to mind, no stirrings of grief or love that were any different from any other day. Daddy wasn’t big on a lot of emotion anyways. His bones lay buried but I know he is not there, so this visitation seems a bit contrived to me. I imagined that he was watching us from heaven and saying “Go home!”, an image that made me smile and that only those who knew him will understand.
My mom educated us on how it came about that these were the burial plots selected for them and the relationship of my dad to a few who were buried near. Our conversations were all concerning matters of fact, which worked really well for me. I’m better with facts than emotion. I loved my father very much. A love that was a fact and most certainly an emotion, but an emotion that was more just known than openly expressed. It worked for me and him this way.
For many years I believed I was incomplete, that something terribly important was missing from my character in my inability to feel what others feel and my incompetence in expressing the things that I did feel. Some things can be learned and I have developed over the years, becoming a better, more compassionate listener and communicator. I said better meaning better than before, not necessarily great. But some things cannot be learned. You either have them or you don’t. The times that I have met the emotional needs of another are the times that God has intervened to equip me with a supernatural ability for the moment. And I am always so grateful.
So this visit to the cemetery had me thinking more of myself than my dad…one more thing that seemed inappropriate. But if there was anything in this life that my daddy wanted for his children it was that they be confident in who they are. My battle for self-acceptance was a hard-won victory, one that he got to see before he left this life and I knew he was proud, even if he struggled to express it.
I left the cemetery assured once again that I am who I am because of God’s wonderful grace and that my dad most certainly had a happy day watching us talk and laugh and love.