‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day is Bittersweet

Exactly five years ago tonight I was saying goodbye to my dad. He had been rushed to the hospital in Florida with chest pains, and was told there was nothing they could do. He had survived 3 heart attacks, open heart surgery, bypass surgery, and the whole gamut of heart-related illnesses. But this time his heart was too weak. And with emphysema, it was impossible to operate on him. So, he lay in a hospital bed with two of my brothers at his side, and one of them held the phone up to his ear for me to say my goodbyes and allow him to pass in peace. It was heart-breaking, but I tried to keep it light and funny, for his sake...razzing him about choosing Father's Day, of all days, to die on. I told him I loved him, told him it was ok to go, and told him we would be ok, because we knew we would see him again. That was it. He passed  just a few minutes after my mom, my brother Jim and I said our goodbyes. 9:34pm Father's Day, 2005.

Nastia never met her father after he was sent to prison when she was just two. We almost did. We invited him to meet us when we flew over to see Anya for the first time, but it proved too overwhelming a task for him. Nast was not particularly upset at the time, but when we got word a year later, in August 2007, that he had died, she wept. 'I never got to meet my father..' she whispered, and then turned away from me to cry.

In the years since both their deaths, Father's Day has become a bittersweet day for us. We take time to talk about our dads, and talk about what they might be doing now, and we talk about seeing them again someday. We look at pictures, we laugh, imagining them together now, meeting as kindred spirits on the other side. 

In some ways, sharing the loss of our fathers has brought us closer together. Losing a dad-- whether he raised you or not -- is a profound loss. No one gets it until they experience it themselves. It's the club no one wants to join.

So, Nastia and I found ourselves a little sensitive and grumpy today. We decided to cheer ourselves up by going to see Toy Story Three. Without giving it away, may I just say do not go to see this movie if you are feeling sensitive and nostalgic? We cried so hard at the end, I thought we'd be kicked out of the theater. But it was a good cry, a needed cry. The kind of cry that connects you to all those deep feelings you try to keep at bay during the daylight hours. It cleansed us. 

And now we're home, looking at pictures of our dads and looking forward to the day when we are in their presence again. Love you both...

(top photo, my dad, Robert Ellis Cahill, in 2005. Next photo, Nastia's dad, Alexander 'Sasha' Poluyanov, in 1991)


  1. Hi Keri. I came across your blog through my friend Karen(who's comment is posted below)'s blog and as soon as i started reading i know i had to go right to the start. so i've just read your whole blog in one sitting from beginning to end! phew... many coffees, laughs and a few tears. I just wanted to say that i think you are an amazing inspirational woman and mother and that your daughter is courageous and beautiful and full of life. You are lucky to have each other. I wish you and Antatasia all the best of luck in getting your daughter Anya home, i hope you have fun with Dashaduring her stay. I'm sure it will be a positive experience for you all. Look forward to reading your next post :)
    May the stars watch over you all
    Kaia from Australia

  2. Kaia, thank you! What a feat! I'm so happy you enjoyed reading it:) And I'm humbled by what you wrote:)


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