Father's Day has come and gone for another year. It's an odd kind of occasion. It isn't a full blown day-off-from-work-with-pay holiday, yet it isn't one you can totally disregard either.
Father's Day is one of those days that are an irritant to kids, the need to make or buy a card, and to get a gift for the man who seems to have everything he needs. Men in general and fathers in particular aren't usually too big on letting their kith and kin know their wants and needs. They usually go along through life with their focus hopefully being on the wants and needs of their wife and kids. In an ideal world, anyways, that'd be the template.
It's not an ideal world, not by one big hairy long shot. My father was referred to as The Old Man or simply Daddy by his genetic heirs. Nothing so gentle or courtly as Father. Fathers belong on the TV, maybe good old Ward Cleaver on Leave It To Beaver, or Andy Griffith on The Andy Griffith Show. Those guys were fathers, alright. They sometimes took the time to talk to their wayward sons, explained things, showed them the way of the true Jedi. I know, old Ward or Andy could come across as pretty darned stern on occasion. I'd have taken the sternness gladly in exchange for the interaction. The Old Man's idea of interaction was planting his boot in your ass if you didn't move as quickly as he thought you should.
He wasn't any more gentle in his speech than he was in his physical actions. He grew up hard during the Great Depression and served in World War II. The realities of his life weren't gentle. His story is one in which a strong back featured large, hard work being his lot in life.
In retrospect on this Father's Day, I doubt he had the energy left over to be gentle. To be caring and patient consumes a lot more energy than simply issuing orders.
In some ways I'm my father's son, alright. I can be painfully blunt and abrupt. My wife, a very gentle person in her own right, has learned to not take my sturm und drang too much to heart, knowing the dog who barks the loudest seldom bites.
I never heard the words 'I love you' from my father. That is one thing I have resolved that my kids will never be able to say. When it's all said and done and the last hymn has been sung, I want them to know that I loved and still love them. That when life gets hard, damned hard, they have that little bit of certainty to put on their pillow alongside their weary head.
Father is such a loaded term, isn't it? It is so much more than being a sperm donor, which is what so many men these days seem to be. When I went to grade school, we had 2 guys from divorced homes, that's 2 out of roughly 50 guys. I don't know of any girls from single parent homes, though there may have been some. The point is, society has changed. One of the certainties of my existence was that Mom and Dad were going to be there. Yes, they had their fights, and some of them were truly epic in length and severity, but they stuck it out. I'm not convinced sometimes that was the right thing, but it's what they did.
My wife and I have 3 kids, 2 of which are stepdaughters to me. The third, my son, is the only child I've ever sired. My gift to him is a stable family relationship. It hasn't been all that tough, though my wife and I have gone a few rounds. I'm glad to have been there, to be there for them all.
I'm a long haul trucker. That means I've missed birthdays, anniversaries, a lot of the firsts that a stay at home Dad is there for in the life of his family. Whenever anything happens, either good or bad, chances are good I've been several hundred miles away when it happened. When my son was born, an event I truly hoped to witness, I was in another state picking up freight. I'd have quit and gone home when my wife went into labor, but I figured I'd need a job the day after his delivery. I swallowed my anger and kept going.
I'd have done a lot of things differently if I had them to do over. I don't, so no sense wasting energy wishing for that. The thing though that strikes me most on this Father's Day is this: what an absolute privilege it has been to share the journey this far with my wife and kids. She volunteered for the journey, they didn't. No one has seen fit to abandon ship. Everyone is here not because they need to be or have to be here, but because they want to be here, most of all myself. The sheer privilege of sharing life with these people overshadows all the other gifts I could receive from them. On this Father's Day then, I'll conclude simply by saying 'Thank you', and meaning it to the depths of my soul.