My father passed away three years ago, but remembering his secrets and the ones I shared with him keep me connected to him.
Father’s Day is this Sunday, and I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot. He passed away a little over three years ago, so this is my family’s fourth Father’s Day without him. My dad and I were very close. Even though we lived 1,200 miles apart when he died, we still spoke nearly every day—we ran a business together in Florida for a few years before I went to grad school and then moved to Chicago. We didn’t get to see each other too much after I moved, and 10 months after I left, he was permanently gone.
I have more happy memories and thoughts of my dad than sad or angry ones. We were family, but we were friends, too. I mean, if there was a dude version of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, it would be Ron and Parker Stockman, but, you know, with 35 years between us and not 16. That’s not just a comparison for laughs, but genuinely, we were just as fast-talkin’, food-lovin’, pop culture-obsessed, and stubborn as the Gilmores. We also had many secrets that we kept.
The secrets I shared with my father started when I was in high school. I lost 10 inches from my waist between middle school and high school, which I accomplished by running nearly every morning and evening. My mom was an early sleeper, and when she found out I ran at night after she went to bed, she was not happy. Though it was suburban Georgia, she still didn’t find it safe. My dad, who also struggled with his weight, didn’t want to discourage me from running. We would wait until Mom went to bed and Dad would drive around the neighborhood at night, circling back to check up on me every couple minutes as I’d do one of my circuits. We never told mom.
We were both night owls and we both loved to eat. Some nights after my run, he’d pick me up a few blocks from the house and say, “Huddle House?” I’d nod, sweat dripping down my face and soaking my shirt. This was another of our secrets—late night diner food, a tradition we kept up for years.
I was never the sporty kid growing up; I hated playing group sports until my 20s. My dad was an avid baseball and football watcher. When he realized we didn’t share that, he read up on the things I did like, learning a bit about theatre and superheroes and indie films. We’d only talk about them when no one else was around—I’d like to think these were secrets we kept, too.
He was the only one I told my SAT score to, the person with whom I shared my religious doubts, the person I often told of the mistakes I made and said, “Don’t tell Mom.”
I was the one he went to when he needed to talk, too. When we started a business together, we would discuss finances. When we lived together in Florida, where we’d started our business and shared a house until Mom could retire with full benefits from teaching in Georgia, he’d tell me secrets about his childhood and his college years and his first marriage. We trusted each other and kept those secrets to ourselves.
I moved to Chicago 10 months before he died. It was a sudden death that no one saw coming. In those last 10 months, we talked about a few things I’ve still never told anyone else, and a few things I don’t think he ever told anyone else.
I miss those secrets that we’d share. I miss the fact that he’ll never meet his grandson, my sister’s kid who just turned 1. I miss his enthusiastic questions about my love life, questions he never asked before I came out to him because he knew I was gay but didn’t want to offend me by asking. I miss that he never saw me in love. I miss that he’ll never hold my mom’s hand again. I miss how much he cared about his family, how he always would listen and offer his advice.
I miss that we can’t share our secrets anymore.
If your father is still around, spend time with him on Father’s Day if you can. There is nothing more important than family, and nothing more important than keeping those relationships as open and honest as you can. If you can’t spend time with your father, give him a call. Share a secret with him. Let him know he’s important enough to know something about you, something only he knows.
And if your father is gone like mine is, do what I do on Father’s Day—spend time with your family talking about him, telling them stories and sharing some of the secrets you had kept for the two of you. It’s a good way to honor your father. Remembering my father’s secrets and the ones I shared with him keep me connected to him.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I’m raising a margarita to you, a margarita made from the secret recipe only we know.
Photo courtesy of the author.
Parker Stockman is completing his thesis in Creative Writing-Fiction at Columbia College Chicago. He has told stories at 2nd Story, You’re Being Ridiculous, Story Club, Outspoken, and Wit Rabbit. He gave a TEDx Talk on story and vulnerability, and he’s been published in Chicago Literati.