No Bagel

I didn’t put my finger on it until I was texting with my friend Mark.

He texted that he’d enjoyed bacon with his Fathers’ Day breakfast and I realized that this is the first time in twenty-one years that my morning didn’t begin with an everything bagel from Bialy’s, cream cheese, onion, tomato, and lox.

It’s a small thing.

It’s not the most important thing about today.

But it was a tradition for twenty years.

I became a father on September 15, 1997 when Maggie’s caregiver placed her in my arms in a hotel in Hefei, China.

We had just missed her first birthday and Kim and me, and the other families of Maggie’s “Shen sisters” became parents together that morning.

Nine months later we celebrated our first Fathers’ Day.

Kim had wanted to make something fancy but decided (after seeing the recipe) to instead pick up bagels. She got up early to make coffee and slice the onions and tomatoes and lay everything out.

Thus a tradition was born.

For us Mothers’ and Fathers’ day was about celebrating our spouse as parent. Sure, later it was about our kids doing something for their mom or dad, but, for me, Mothers’ Day was about me looking at Kim and remembering who she was before we had kids and who she’d become after.

On our second Fathers’ Day, I had bagels again.

I also had two daughters.

Elena had been born in March. The girls were almost exactly two and a half years apart but my second Fathers’ Day was Elena’s first.

As soon as she could talk, Elena loved celebrations like birthdays and Mothers’ and Fathers’ Days.

For the next several years Kim still picked up bagels but Elena would wake Maggie up so they would bring me a card or a gift.

My ninth Fathers’ Day was different.

Elena had died a few months earlier.

I began a new tradition.

Kim and I would have bagels and coffee together as always.

I’d wait for Maggie to wake up and come down with a Fathers’ Day card. I’d sit while she had a bagel.

Then I’d head to the cemetery to spend time with Elena.

So odd.

Most of the other people there were spending time with their fathers on Fathers’ Day.

I was spending time with my daughter.

Not with her. I never thought she was there. But it was a way of spending time with her memory.

That first year, Elena’s grave didn’t yet have a stone. Every year since it has and I’ve taken a picture of it on Fathers’ Day.

Again our tradition has changed.

Kim was killed almost two years ago.

Last year was my first Fathers’ Day without her.

It was difficult.

Fathers’ Day was always a day that was special to Kim and me. It was a time where we – this is going to sound sappy and stupid – but it was a day where we paused to share a love of something greater than the two of us. This family we’d built.

Maggie was home last year on Fathers’ Day.

She got up early – an amazing gift in and of itself – and went to Bialy’s as they opened. She picked up fresh bagels, cream cheese, and lox and brought it home.

I went to the cemetery and visited Kim and Elena’s grave.

Kim’s grave didn’t yet have a stone.

I used to sit on a bench next to their graves. The bench fell apart and the cemetery won’t replace it even though I’ve offered to pay for it.

So I stand a while. Some years I bring a chair.

This year it’s my twenty-first Fathers’ Day.

Maggie is away at a summer program studying ancient greek.

I consider that my Fathers’ Day gift. I’m very proud of her.

This year it’s just me and the puppy on my twenty-first Fathers’ Day.

It’s my thirteenth without Elena.

It’s my thirteenth of visiting the cemetery on Fathers’ Day.

It’s my second without Kim.

It’s my first without a bagel.

Published in: on June 17, 2018 at 10:34 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. You write beautifully about the love you shared and the pain you feel. Thank you for sharing your heart with readers. (I am a friend of Jill’s.)

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