For the past few years I've had a rather specific cognitive bias: filtering out anything that reminds me of what I no longer have. This year I've learned that not only is ignorance not bliss, it is unachievable for a curious mind.
Two years ago I managed to be completely numb to Fathers Day: when Dad died suddenly in September 2009, in the midst of what was already a very tough year, numb seemed both natural and necessary. Fathers Day didn't exist because I no longer had my Dad to celebrate.
Last year, in turn, I felt painfully bombarded with Father's Day messages. The 3 weeks of flyers and messages, some of them really over the top, brought both resentment and regret. And it lingered well beyond mid-June, a malaise with no cure.
The resentment is, of course, a function of regret: not spending the time I had; not telling him how much he meant to me.
Whether we like it or not, our societal constructs entail some very clearly defined roles based on gender and age. Being a Father demands a mix of hard-headed responsibility, soft-hearted kindness and a persona that is both authoritative and welcoming.
My Dad did not always achieve that ideal, and (like of all us) sometimes fell short of the mark. What I know for certain is that he wanted to be a good Father; and he kept aiming for that.
This year I can celebrate Fathers Day.
The numbness is gone.
More importantly, so is the resentment. It faded away in light of the abiding confidence that comes of knowing I was deeply loved and valued by my Dad.
The regret? That lingers faintly, and may never go away.
That is, perhaps, a good thing: regret has (e)motive power in the here and now to help us avoid more of it in the future.
Regret tells me that I cannot change my past; and besides, there would never be enough time or words to give a loved one everything in our hearts.
Regret also tells me that for the loved ones with me now, I can and should use all the time and words I have, every day.
So I am ditching my filter, rejecting my cognitive bias and embracing again what is no longer lost.
Happy Fathers Day.