Forgetting Father’s Day

Today, by noon, your boys
so far have forgotten Father’s Day.
Divorced ten years, their dad
doesn’t want you to remind them.
Backspace the text you started
each carefully chosen word at a time.
In the most despicable way,
you feel better about the year
they forgot Mother’s Day
and he didn’t remind them.
Admit it. You cried. You were glad
they felt badly when they realized
their mistake. But why care?
It’s a stupid Hallmark holiday.
Still, forgetting is pudding proof
they don’t have a clue how hard
being a parent is— infant fevers,
public displays of tangled toddler hair,
dripping snot, the sibling punch,
the teacher’s heartless taunt,
the constant sense of impending… what?
(don’t say or even think it)
with every unexcused absence,
below-average English grade,
the social judgment for every ripped knee
or t-shirt stain, the gnawing guilt
of making time or love or a life
for yourself outside of what’s for dinner,
the fear that any self care you steal
is directly related to why
your child will need therapy
in a decade or two or five,
when they decide to divorce
a wife too little or too like you.
What will they write or say someday,
these children who forget you,
remember your crimes before the good.
With sheepish shame, you look forward
to the stupid holiday, the stupid card
(hopefully homemade with a cut-out heart,
no matter their age), the one day and way
you know they have at least been taught
to enact the performance of gratitude
for you, for their existence and the chance
to grapple with the art of living
on a boat floating on the sea of death.
They and the day are still young.
You are not. Their father waits.
Neither of you hold your breath.


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