Happy Fathers’ Day. The words on the Hallmark card I gave you today weren’t mine. I have a recurring fear that when I finally find my words for you, I’ll be weeping over a tombstone and delivering them inaudibly over muffled tears. In this fear, some of the tears are because I miss you and the others because I missed you. I missed the opportunity to give you my words and instead I gave you a three-pack of Hanes T-shirts for Christmas.
“I love you, Dad.”
Not good enough. I love Mom. I love my wife. I love my brother and sister. I love my dogs, and I love football.
“Thank you for being a great Dad.”
Nope. Every Dad hears those words.
I might have to dig a little bit.
In kindergarten, I had a father that never called. The silent telephone never bothered me, because I didn’t know what a Dad was.
In third-grade, you married Mom. God smiled upon me that day, but at that age, I thought God always smiled.
In fifth-grade, Mrs. Vandervelt had us draw a picture of our hero and write a few sentences about him. I drew a picture of Don Mattingly because I didn’t understand what a hero was.
In eighth grade, you and Mom threw me a graduation party. When the guests left and the house was cleaned up, you sat me down and poured me a beer. Just you and me, splitting a beer at the kitchen table. The moment was lost on me because I didn’t yet understand that’s all life gives us – moments.
In tenth grade, you grounded me for deceiving you. I was angry because I didn’t understand what character was.
After twelfth grade, I left home for college. I thought this made me a “man”
A lot has changed and much has remained the same since then. I have no regrets but many battle scars. If I knew then what I know now:
- I would have wept with joy when you married Mom because that was the day that my future-self became a possibility. I could never have become “me” without “you”
- I would have sketched a picture of you. When God wasn’t smiling, life had me on the ropes, and darkness consumed me, I drew from your spirit to fight back to the light. Only in our darkest hours do we know who our heroes are. You are mine.
- I would have asked for another beer. When life hands you moments like that one, you do whatever you can to extend them.
- I would have thanked you for grounding me. I am a man of character because you refused to let me be otherwise.
- When I left home, I would have thanked you, in advance. I didn’t yet know hardship, pain, or suffering. I didn’t yet understand compassion, charity, or humanity. I didn’t yet tangle with disappointment, humility, or grief. In time, each made my acquaintance. By the time I understood what you had done for me, I lost the ability to communicate deeper than Hallmark would allow for. You prepared me to handle these encounters like a “man” and for that, I am eternally grateful.
Thank you, Dad. I could never have become me without you.
Happy Fathers’ Day.
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