Respectfully submitted by Lawrence E. Rafferty (rafflaw)- Weekend contributor
This is a personal story that I need to share with you. For many years before I became a Dad, Fathers Day always gave me mixed emotions. Growing up without knowing my Father always made me uncomfortable on this special day. While I always considered that my Mother did a masterful job handling being both a Mother and a Father to me and my siblings, there was still something missing. My Dad would have turned 93 this past week and his birthday went by with only a few Facebook posts and comments from my siblings and relatives. I am sure that my Mother was thinking about him on that day, but when I was young, Fathers Day was not a holiday in our house.
My Dad was born in 1921 and was one of 11 children born to Alex and Min Rafferty. He grew up in Northern Lake County, Illinois and his father and my Grandfather, ran a moving and storage business that kept the entire family busy. My Dad was named Lawrence, but was called Sonny by his Mother and Father and his siblings because he was born after a few girls in a row so my Grandfather was happy to have another Son. I was never able to personally wish him a Happy Fathers Day because he was killed in the Service in March of 1951, just a few short weeks before I was born. However, in the last several years I have thought about him often and written about him and his life, but I still have never wished him a Happy Fathers Day.
When I was in Grade school, I missed my Father every time there was a Father/Son event. While the Benedictine Sisters would make sure I was invited to the events and some of my friends fathers would invite me to come with them, I often felt out-of-place. I was grateful for the invitations, but I would usually say thanks, but no thanks when asked. I am sure I missed out on a lot of fun times, but I guess I may have felt embarrassment and took the easy way out.
In most respects, my Mother did many of the things that a Dad would do, but when it came time for sports, she was not able to show me the way. My brother, who was 3 years older stepped in when he was older and played baseball and football with me and got me started in sports. I always wonder who helped him when he was younger? Needless to say, my Mom would drive me everywhere, when I couldn’t ride my bike, in order to keep me involved in sporting activities and spent countless hours in the bleachers or stands, in order that I could experience and play Little League, Pony League, High School baseball and basketball and even some Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) football in grade school.
When it came to my graduations, and then my marriage and the birth and baptisms and first communions of my children, my Mom was always there. But there was something, someone missing at all of those watershed events. Someone who didn’t get the opportunity to see me grow up or my older siblings grow up and have families. When we would celebrate Fathers Day at our house or at my siblings houses over the years, we always thanked my Mom for all that she did, but I never wished my Dad a Happy Fathers Day.
In many respects, when I have attended wakes and funerals of friends parents over the years, and some of them would say that since I lost my Dad, I knew how they felt. I would invariably tell them that they had it worse than me because I never felt the loss that my Mother felt or my older siblings who did know my Dad as very young kids. I am not so sure that my statement was accurate, because not having a Father was a loss in itself. But I would rarely admit that when I was a young man.
Now that I am in my 60’s, I have worked hard to find out as much as I could about my Dad and his life and how he died. I learned about him being credited with 50 bombing missions in World War II as a B-24 pilot, flying out of Italy. I learned about the jobs he had after the Second World War and his service in the Air Force Reserve. I learned that his last job before his reserve group was reactivated, he was a fireman for his hometown. I was able to learn more about his last flight, even though there are many unanswered questions of just what happened to the plane and to him and the 50 plus other souls on board. However, I have never wished him Fathers Day.
When I visit with my Mother at her assisted living facility, I will ask her about my Dad to try to fill in the gaps. I have learned some things about my Dad from her in the last few years that she never told me before, or maybe I never heard before. For someone who had to cope with 4 kinds under the age of 6 and my birth 6 weeks after the Air Force C-124 carrying my Dad and over 50 other airmen ditched in the Atlantic, my Mother was able to put us all through school and college. My oldest sister obtained her Doctorate and all of my sisters graduated from college and my brother went to back to college after returning from Vietnam. I think I shocked them all when I graduated from College and then Law School. So my Mom must have done something right. She was both Mother and Father to me and my siblings. But still, there was something, someone missing.
It way past time for me to do something I have never been able to do. Something that I probably always repressed myself from doing these past 63 years. I guess it is never too late, but it does feel a little late. Happy Fathers Day Dad. I should have said it sooner, even though you weren’t there to hear me say it. Then again, maybe you were there.
Don’t ever miss the opportunity to wish your Mother Happy Mothers Day or Happy Fathers Day to your Father or to tell them or any family members that you love them. You never know when you will no longer have the opportunity to tell them how you feel. Don’t put it off. Do it today.
Happy Fathers Day to everyone and especially, Happy Fathers Day Sonny. I am sorry it took me so long! So very sorry.
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