Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Trouble with Father's Day

Today is Father's Day. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a thing about fatherhood. Father's Day, in particular, is tough for me because it brings about a conflict of interest. I have attempted to live my life focusing on what I have gained rather than what I have lost. Father's Day is a day to think about and celebrate one's father. So, I have always been confused as to how I would handle Father's Day. When I was young, I used to ignore it. Father's Day would come and go at my house without pomp and circumstance. As I got older and became a father myself, Father's Day became a day for my children to celebrate me. I learned to see this as a day to simply be with my children and enjoy the one day of the year when I could ask them to go fishing or sit and listen to jazz records without actually having to tie them down. For a time, the conflict was resolved within me.

This year, though, I feel the conflict re-emerging. Perhaps because of the book and having all of my father's stories fresh in my head, I feel a renewed sense of obligation to think about my own father on this special day. And I know all of the rhetoric. Think about the good times. Think about the gifts he left you. My love for music. My sense of commitment to my community. My entrepreneurial spirit. Those all came, no doubt, from my father. But that's not what I think of on Father's Day.

My son is turning seven this summer. That's how old I was when my father passed. When I think about everything he'd miss out on if I left now, it blows my mind. I can't wait for the day when I get to tell him about girls. I can't wait to see him graduate from high school. I bought him his first baseball glove when he was two out of fear of missing out on the experience of playing catch with my son. Seeing him off to college, sitting front row at his wedding, seeing him become a father, having adult conversations about life and love and manhood...these are all things that I can't imagine missing. So, when I think of my father, I can't help but remember that he missed every one of them.

I was practicing a little baseball in the yard with the boy the other day, and he began to complain. As children often do, he had lost patience and interest and wanted to just go play. I found myself nearly in tears thinking about what I would give to be able to throw the ball just once with my dad. My son does it a few times a week. I never did it once. I even attempted to explain this to my son in hopes of inspiring him to appreciate what he had. His response to the fact that I never got to play ball with my dad and that he should therefore cherish these moments: "Since you never got to play with your dad, why don't you play baseball, and I'll watch you!"

Believe it or not, he meant well. Still, it made me realize that it will be a great many years before he ever really "gets it." The only thing that gives me comfort is the knowledge that, God willing, I will actually be there when he does.

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