My wish for all dads is that this is a great day of relaxation and family fun. Kick back and enjoy it. You deserve the rest and the accolades.
I’m missing my father this day, as well as my husband, who was a wonderful father, too. Not perfect. Just human. But both were men of integrity and family loyalty who passed on good values and life skills to their children.
A long time ago I wrote a version of the following for a column I did for The Texas Catholic newspaper. Then I expanded it for an article in Marriage & Family Living magazine. Going forward, it might be included in my memoir. The one I keep trying to write. LOL (As you read, keep in mind that I wrote this when Daddy was still living.)
A FATHER’S DAY TRIBUTE
My father once asked me if I harbored any bad feelings because he’d left my mother when I was just a child. The question surprised me. This was an issue I’d thought we’d both put to rest eons ago, but the fact that he felt comfortable enough to ask touched me deeply.
We didn’t always relate in a way that could invite that much honesty. Not that we had a terrible relationship. In fact, it was pretty good considering it was governed by a decree that determined child support and gave him Sunday afternoons with his daughters. But there are inherent difficulties in any divorce situation that wound, rather than enhance, relationships.
In dealing with this issue, I’ve tried to be mature about it, giving my father bonus points for not abandoning us altogether. But I can’t deny that I’ve played with the fantasy that he could have been a super-hero, swooping in with magic power to fix everything and create “happy ever after.”
Actually, for much of my childhood, that’s the way I saw my father. He was bigger than life, this Sunday visitor, bringing an element of fantasy into my world that made the other six days pale. Our time together was an occasion to get dressed up and go on a special outing. Sometimes it was a movie, or a simple drive in the country, but it always concluded at the local ice-cream parlor.
I remember once when we went to the historic Fisher Theatre in downtown Detroit. I’d never seen anything so beautiful. Crystal chandeliers glistened against gilded walls and a great red velvet curtain draped the stage. It was like a magical castle where I could be a princess, and of course, only a prince would have taken me there.
Somewhere in the midst of the turbulence of my teenage years, however, I began to see that this prince had faults. He was better with music than relationships. He didn’t like to confront problems. And sometimes he wasn’t available to the needs of his children.
Did that mean (gasp!) that he wasn’t perfect?
Absolutely. But that was okay.
It wasn’t okay right at the very moment that I first realized it. Acknowledging that truth was like jumping into an ice-cold lake, but later my psyche adjusted to the temperature.
That realization led to a shift in our relationship, narrowing the gap between fantasy and reality, and I discovered that the truth was better than the fiction. Despite his faults, my father is a good man, and I keep running into bits and pieces of his wisdom with every turn of my mind…
Work hard until the job is finished.
Treat everyone with respect.
Don’t cheat the grocer or the IRS.
Obey the rules, even when nobody is watching.
Music is good for the soul…
There is still a part of me that idealizes my father. It’s a remnant of that legacy we little girls bring into adulthood. But I can also see and accept him as less than perfect. What a liberating thing that has been for both of us. He doesn’t have to live up to some childish expectation and neither do I. We can just be the people we’ve become.
So how would I answer his question today? I’d tell him that I’ve never blamed him for leaving. I understand that the problems that plagued my parents’ marriage simply overwhelmed a young man. And even though our relationship hasn’t always been grist for a greeting card commercial, I treasure it.
Even though he is no longer here to read this, I’ll still keep the ending: Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.