Returning the favor

15 Jun

It’s father’s day.  Since I have become a father myself, this has always been a day of reflection about my kids and my relationship with them, and how it relates to mine with my own dad. I don’t really buy the conventional wisdom that most conservatives spout, that most of society is moving beyond the concept of fatherhood, that fathers are unappreciated and, most people think, unneeded.

I don’t think anyone thinks of fathers as unneeded at all. Absent? A great deal of the time. But unneeded? I don’t know of a single person in real life who actually thinks that.

I certainly had a great father. I’ve written about him before here: but this year, as parts of my life began to fall apart, and others started to come together, I’ve been reminded again of what makes him so great. A lot of guys grew up trying to prove themselves to their dads, and felt like they failed. They just never lived up. I certainly inhaled the same cultural smoke that makes this a right of passage for men in our society, but as I’ve become an adult and a father I realized that with my dad, I didn’t really have to do this. He didn’t always understand me. Hell, I didn’t always understand myself. But he saw who I was and didn’t place upon me responsibility for his own happiness. He never wanted me to be anyone else. He didn’t need a sports hero, or a clone of himself. He didn’t even need to “get me” to love me and support me.

That’s a rare gift. He had certain things he wanted for me: a work ethic, a sense of faith, to stay out of jail,  but beyond that … he just wanted me to be happy and successful.

And that’s what I want for my own kids. They are not me. They don’t have to reflect me. I just want them to be happy and successful in their lives.

And for my father? I don’t need to “get him” either all the time to love and unconditionally support him. He’s a man who’s worked hard all his life, and then gave up what could have been an early and easy retirement to move across country and start his life over again. He did that because he wanted to be in my life and in my kids’ lives. He’s a great grandpa, and a great dad, and I thank God every day for the gift of that. He’s certainly more patient with me than I am with myself. He’s not a perfect man, but I think his imperfections make him a better father. I certainly hope so, because that’s what I’m counting on for myself.

So, for father’s day, we should all return the favor, try to understand our fathers who who they are as people, and love them for being that person. It’s probably a lot of the reason we are who we are.

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Posted by on June 15, 2008 in Uncategorized


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