By Malkie Gordon Hirsch
It’s Sunday and I can’t seem to scroll past the never-ending social media posts that are dedicated to the Hallmark holiday known as Father’s Day. I see picture after picture of beautiful families with both a mother and a father and I’m instantly reminded what sets us apart from the others who celebrate the day happily and effortlessly.
As if we needed any reminders about what we’ve lost. But it rears its ugly head on different days other than today and in different ways throughout the year. Whether it’s when my son has to say Kiddush at a Shabbos meal, or when I have to fill out the father’s information on a medical or school form, or when I have to attend the countless back-to-school events, open houses, or simchas alone.
I mostly do it robotically, trying not to think about the ridiculousness of putting down his name and contact info, sometimes laughing at the notion of someone not realizing what has happened and trying to reach him.
These days, I just enter my information twice to save me from falling down that emotionally exhausting rabbit hole I’ve come to recognize as triggered grief.
I haven’t told my kids about Father’s Day and I hope they don’t know because all that would do is remind them about what they no longer have. Things most people take for granted and the things I one time took for granted, too.
We were never much of a sentimental bunch and I appreciate that now more than ever, because it’s saved us from agonizing over the birthdays, anniversaries, and Father’s Days that we won’t celebrate.
We’ve had many people in our lives step in and help out in the countless ways Moshe did. But how does one even start to count the ways a father makes a positive impact on a child’s life? How can I even begin to understand all that was lost?
I don’t, because I know it will take me to a place that will do nothing but cause sadness and regret. Instead, I’ve come to a place that comforts me. It provides happiness and reminds me of the best memories from a time not too long ago when we did pretty much the same thing we’re doing today—lazing around on the first summer Sunday, packing the kids up for camp, and planning a barbecue for dinner. We’re missing a pretty major cast member in the story of our life but remembering what we once had makes this day a little sweeter and sadder at the same time.
I try clearing my mind of the things we should’ve had and instead focus on the things we were lucky to have while we had them and on what we still have now.
It’s a powerful tool in the arsenal of getting through tough days without the people you love, and I highly recommend it. Anyone can do it, and all it takes is changing your thoughts from negative to positive, from scarcity to abundance. For example, instead of lamenting someone’s loss, you celebrate his or her memory.
Instead of thinking about the days we won’t partake in, think about the memories that are ours forever. Instead of feeling the guilt of not having a father for your kids, think about the selflessly beautiful people who have stepped in to do the things a father does.
I still get the occasional reminder about something that happened during the week of shivah that I had forgotten—it comes back at random times—and one such story that I had completely forgotten about was when HaRav Asher Weiss came to be menachem avel.
The memory was triggered from an advertisement in last week’s issue of this paper when I read that he was in town for Shabbos and was speaking at a local shul. I thought about how a rav came to my low seat and whispered that HaRav Weiss would be making a shivah call shortly.
My father stood behind me as Rav Weiss addressed us family members, but I remember him looking at my father for a length of time and saying that now my father would be my boys’ father, since Moshe and his father could no longer be here for that.
I watched quietly as they exchanged some words, and I knew the difficulties that would lie ahead for my boys and baby girl. I knew that they’d be at a disadvantage from not having their father around but I also knew that we’d always get the love and support needed to make this journey a bit easier.
My boys are growing up and I see the future fathers they’ll be one day, thanks to the men in our lives who might not be their father in the biological sense, but have put in time, energy, and so much love to show them what it means to be a good man.
And I remember, too, that my children don’t completely lack a father. They had a wonderful dad, whose life and memory can and does continue to inform and direct them.
Tzaddikim, even after death, are called “living,” Chazal teach, because their influence lives on.
The word “toldos” means children and life events—the outgrowth of what a person contributes to the world. Moshe’s toldos continue to shape his toldos—our kids know and hear about his actions, and that’s part of their identity. Fatherhood is different for our family.
And so, from within my mixed feelings of pain and gratitude, I chose to wish a happy Father’s Day to the men who get to celebrate with their families, happy Father’s Day to the women who have to be both a mother and a father, and to those who have gone too soon. We think about you daily and miss you always.
Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, a social media influencer, veteran real estate agent, and runs a patisserie in Woodmere.