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My 63rd Father’s Day and First Without Mine

by Tammi Leader
 ∙ Jun 15 ∙ 4 Min Read

Today is the day we celebrate dads, and though mine said goodbye at age 94 just two weeks ago, I’m celebrating this Father’s Day– my first without parents — feeling eternally grateful. Not only to have been there for my dad, “Papa,” for the last few years, but to get to choose to remember all the good stuff – from his voice, to his antics, to his silly expressions and dry sense of humor – from now until I take MY last breath.

And it’s technology I have to thank for that.

As a Television Producer for more than 30 years, I raised my kids in front of the camera because I always had the latest and greatest audio/video contraption in hand (“the new hot thing,” my kids now joke that I would say). I have b-roll of so many of their childhood moments, but it was the sound bites caught in response to my probing questions that my whole family has since come to cherish. They rolled their eyes at the time, but since I saved almost everything I videotaped, we now agree that the footage is among our most prized possessions.

Today, our phones make it so easy to capture all the best moments with loved ones. Roll on them. Be present for the moments, and don’t worry about the quality of content — I promise: the balance of being IN the moment and capturing it to relive later is what makes the quality so rich.

I started interviewing my dad years ago, asking him questions about his life – big, existential ones (“Do you think Mommy will recognize you when you get to Heaven? How?”), alongside little ones (“What’s your favorite meal?”). We covered, and re-covered, his deep family history. He described his childhood pranks, laughing at himself while singing and dancing to Sinatra (his favorite), and everything in between. He was just so happy to be sharing his stories and cutting the rug with anyone who cared to listen or view his moves. And we were just so simply entertained to be his audience (again!).

Now that he’s gone, I’ve been sharing a few of those videos on social media, and what you have reflected back to me to comfort me in the wake of his passing is that you feel like you know him because of it! Wow.

Yes, my dad was a character but I’m still surprised by the response I’ve been getting. These videos show my dad living out loud, and I feel so blessed now to have them, to remind me, and all of us, of the guy who wore a T-shirt declaring him “the man, the myth and the legend.” (He loved that one so much that it went to the grave with him…and so did his Korean War Vet hat…and his pipe!)

These little nuggets have helped me push through my grief, and I share them so you too can have what we are having: joy through reflection, even in the darkest of times.

If you’re lucky enough to still have your dad in your life, and want him there, I invite you to break out the camera on your phone and start throwing questions at them. Or anyone you love. People love to tell stories. Tape them. Here are some questions you may want to try >>

And if you’re not fortunate enough to be in the same room with your people on this special day, do it on Zoom and record it. Or pick a different person you love and share the honor that way.

Don’t waste time on small talk, or asking yes-or-no questions. Dig a little.

In our case, I learned from my dad that the closer he got to the end, the more willing he was to share thoughts he might not have wanted to part with, ‘til now. 

This Fathers Day, though we are all still a little raw, our family will be cueing up the “best of Papa” snippets, and sharing the laughter and the tears with our beloved patriarch, even if he’s not here to chuckle with us.

Or maybe he will be, in spirit? (Cue the flickering lights.)

Happy Father’s Day.

From the campfire & beyond,

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