For most of my life, on Father's Day, my Mom would take us to my grandparents' place so the entire family could celebrate with the Family Elder. I'd wish every dad a "Happy Father's Day" except my grandad, who got the "Happy Grandfather's Day" greeting instead. Only from me, not any of his other grandkids.
I "met" my own father when I was 20. Before then, I had a succession of men volunteering for the job with varying levels of conviction; only one of them had some level of success, my brother's dad, who lived with us for over a decade. I learned many Life lessons from him; he was a lawyer, a sports fan, a history buff, a grammar nazi and a music aficionado - all things I could relate with or grew at least a passing interest in.
Still, I realized when I got to meet my biological father that we had even stronger bonds despite never having spoken to each other prior - he was court-ordered to never (ever, not even after I reached adulthood) contact me before I'd learned to speak, as I'd just begun taking my first few steps. We shared the same mentality, the same animal instincts, the same food preferences, a penchant for alcoholized drinks, the same irrational fear of skunks... and so much more.
So I've been celebrating Father's Day with him for the past 20 years as well, but also with my grandpa.
A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriend gave birth to my very own son. I was going to get celebrated for Father's Day for the first time, myself. We had things planned out, first on my girlfriend's side for lunch and early-afternoon activities, then an evening with my dad and his lady.
Except that on Father's Day eve - Saturday morning - my Mom called, telling me my grandfather, who'd been living in an assisted-living facility for the past couple of years, took a turn for the worse during the night and was entering his final few hours.
He hung on for as long as he could and waited for every one of us to each have our moment alone with him before taking his final breath, and I left his building around 7 PM on Sunday without having seen my own son on my very first Father's Day.
Life wanted me to close out the "Grandfather's Day" chapter of my life before I was to enter my own "Dad" moment. It was bittersweet, it was sad, and I wasn't at my best when I finally saw my kid a few minutes ago, still going on two mostly sleepless nights and a tear-induced headache, but I came home to my own family to begin a new chapter, having closed one a car ride prior.
Like a well-written TV series script, there will be repercussions from this weekend in the coming weeks, months and years - my grandmother still lives in the same facility, for one, and some family members were forced to re-open some old wounds that will require new stitchings when facing the Family Elder, but Life has a way of tying together loose ends that works a lot better than anything J.J. Abrams or M. Night Shyamalan can cook up.
Onwards and forward.
Happy Father's Day to those who can have that - and a nice stroll down memory lane to those who can't.