Sunday, June 21, 2009

Musings on Father’s Day

Father’s Day.

The concept of fatherhood evokes quite a myriad of memories in most of us.

Many have fond memories of their fathers.

Some of have poor memories.

There are some who have few memories.

Some miss their fathers, separated by distance or the fact that their father has passed from this world.

Some never knew their fathers.

Some wish they never knew their fathers.

Memories of my father when I was young are rich, warm and complex.  In my eyes, my father knew a bit about everything.  He could fix anything – cars, toaster ovens and everything in between.  He played sports and board games with us.  He could identify any bird by its call.  He was a crack shot with a 12-gauge when he used to hunt.  He could carve anything out of any kind of material. 

When we would go trouting, he could catch a trout with anything.  When everyone around him would not be raising a trout at all, he would happily be landing nice ones.  I once mused that he probably could have tied his watch on his line and caught something on it.

I remember many-a-time looking over to where he sat as he watched his line.  He sat quietly, at peace with his surroundings and his life.

My dad also demanded hard work from us.  Sometimes he was short on patience.  Aren’t we all?

He built his own house by hand.  Actually, he built more than one.

There were days as a young boy when he made me happy.  There were days when I was sad or angry because of something he did or said.

It wasn’t until I became a father that I finally had an appreciation for fatherhood and the life my father lived every day.  As I expressed to my father in a Father’s Day card about 10 years ago, I believe you have to become a father to really understand what it takes to be one (the same is true for mothers also).

It wasn’t until I became a father that I became truly aware of my strengths and my weaknesses.  It was at that point that I discovered a better sense of what gratitude meant.

It was when I became a father that I finally understood my limits of patience and discovered I had a long ways to go to reach perfection.  I still have a long way to go.

Fatherhood provided me with the challenge of wanting to make someone happy while at the same time, needing to do the right thing for the child in specific situations.

I have experienced the post-event guilt when I snapped at one of my kids and then realized afterward that that wasn’t the best way to have handled the situation.

I experienced the moment where you are biting your lip to keep yourself from laughing when you experience something funny with your children but you fear that laughter might embarrass them.  So you save it for later.

How about the heartbreak when you treat your child’s first skinned knee as they learn how to ride their first bicycle?

Or the pride as suddenly they get the hang of it and as you release the bicycle, they ride off, squealing with delight “I’m doing it, Daddy”.  The seeds of independence have taken root.

What about the worry when your child is injured, ill or has gone missing?

Then there are the other moments as you provide your child with counsel on some issue that seems important at the moment.  Maybe it’s why it’s not right to hit someone else or about the importance of sharing.  Perhaps it’s a talk about drugs, school, careers or young romance.

I can’t say it’s “the talk about the birds and the bees”.  I’m still waiting for mine.  :-)

There are the moments when there is an opportunity for spontaneous laughter and happiness over something that wasn’t funny before and doesn’t seem funny since – one of those “once in a moment opportunities” that you have to grab when it’s before you.

There are also many fathers whose child is no longer with them, having passed on because of illness or accident.  They carry the greatest load of all and have my deepest and greatest respect.  I cannot profess to understand what their heart bears.

Regardless of the situation of a father (and there are many more than what I described), when the day is over, the children have gone to bed and silence spreads through the household, the father is left alone to think.

He sifts through his day with a mix of emotions.  He is grateful for what he experienced.  He thinks through how to balance budgets and provide for his children’s futures. He feels the emotions of his children – their worry, their happiness, their pain and their fear.  He feels proud of their accomplishments.  He wonders if he did the right thing at all times.  Most times he acknowledges that he did the best he could.  Sometimes he resolves to do better next time.  He laughs at a funny moment and resolves to remember it forever.

He hopes that his children learn from what he does well.

He also hopes that they learn a better way of doing things when he does things poorly.

Fatherhood is a busy vocation.

It is filled with rewards and opportunities to live, to love, to learn and to leave a legacy.  Sometimes it is lonely at the top as the father’s burdens can sometimes feel very heavy but the hope is that love and positive memories will outweigh all the challenges.

So today we express gratitude to fathers, whether they are still with us or have passed on.  When we express gratitude, let’s do it with real feeling, with a heartfelt thanks for everything they have done for us.  Even if they have done something we resent, they have created who we are ……..

A human being of unlimited potential.

Just as we shouldn’t rush through our prayers in a perfunctory way when we pray to our Father in heaven, we shouldn’t express gratitude to our earthly father in a perfunctory way either.

Being a human being of unlimited potential calls for living a life of unceasing gratitude to everyone in our lives – fathers, mothers, siblings, children, friends and strangers.

I am grateful to my father for all that he has done and for all that I am.  I am grateful to my children for teaching me the pieces of fatherhood that weren’t apparent to me when I was growing up.  It helps me to appreciate my father even more.  I am also grateful to my Father in heaven, for providing me with strength, wisdom and insight when I wonder if my earthly fatherhood skills are sufficient.

Fathers do the best they can with what they have.

Today we thank them for everything they have done for us. 

Let’s not limit our expression of gratitude to just today.

In service and servanthood.



  1. Harry,
    Your story about your father was very touching. You were, indeed, blessed to have a father who taught you how to be a father. An, as you wrote, your children teach you as well.

    I grew up wondering what it would be like to have a father like yours. I was envious of my friends when I saw their fathers relate to them in a loving manner.

    My father left the family when I was young and though I saw him on Sundays, I often dreaded the visits. Yet I am grateful for my father because I made a vow that I would be a far better father to my children. My fathering is one of my greatest accomplishments in life. I am blessed to have two amazing children who have also taught me about fathering.

    Fatherhood is priceless. Our children need committed fathers who truly value them. I won't go into all the statistics about fatherless children but suffice it to say that children who have fathers invested in their welfare have a far better chance in life.

    I can say that I am truly grateful for the important lesson that my own father taught me. I am also grateful for my Divine Father for I know he is always committed to my welfare.

    Happy Father's Day!

  2. Hi Leonard,

    Thank you so much for your kinds comments.

    I am deeply touched by your story also. While I know your childhood wasn't easy, the choices your father made have contributed to creating a great person in you.

    I know you as someone committed to others - committed to their healing, to their growth and to their ability and desire to express and receive love.

    I am grateful for who you have become and for helping me be a better person!

    Take care and God Bless you, my friend.