Mr. Sillypants, once again, taking a moment to wrap up an interesting Father’s Day 2010. Many thoughts have been bouncing around my somewhat smallish and thick skull today, many of them relating to fatherhood and my own father.
My day started out with an absolutely sublime moment when Blueberry came into our bedroom with a card in his hand, stating happily, “For *you*, Daddy.” In it was a moving bit of prose from Ms. Plum’s hand, tender, powerful words which warmed that innermost part of me. (Also a source of warmth was Blue’s inability to remember the previously well-rehearsed “Happy Father’s Day”, even with tons of prompting from my beloved Ms. Plum.) Watching Blueberry’s quizzical look after repeated lead-in’s from Ms. Plum was worth it; it is a wonderful image I won’t soon forget.
However, today, in other ways, was kind of tough. Perhaps it was the flood of memories which came to me repeatedly throughout the day, memories of my own beloved father who exited this mortal coil in 1993 at the young age of 60. I think that Blueberry’s presence in my life has certainly made me so much more aware of my own father’s uniqueness, his qualities, his sacrifice and his enduring place in my heart.
Also, my beloved Ms. Plum and I had a rough day in other ways. As any of you in relationship know, there are days when things just get a bit off kilter and you spend the rest of the day just not quite finding a way to reconnect. (Rest assured, we are fine – – – we just had a rough day.) However, there were a few terse moments, as well as a few instances where teeth were gritted and heads were shaken slowly, side to side, as we worked our way through a day which all of us (I’d imagine) have experienced at one time or another.
So, it was an interesting Father’s Day.
My father was a Lutheran pastor, a man of faith and warmth and smiles, quick with laughter, slow with judgement. He was steady, loving, constant, humble, hard-working; he loved to fish like no other man I have ever met. (If possible, he would go to his favorite steelhead stream every morning at 5am, throwing the fish in the back of his Datsun sedan as he rushed home to get cleaned up before heading to church.)
As a father, he was imperfect, like any of us. He made mistakes, like any of us. Yet, we never doubted his love for us, never doubted that he counted us as among his greatest blessings.
He was a preacher, of course, and loved to give “pearls” whenever he could. Some of those have stayed with me to this day (and probably will be part of me for the rest of my life.) Perhaps my favorite is, “It is better to err on the side of love than the side of judgement.” I think of that advice whenever I am trying to figure out my best response when I feel slighted or misunderstood or wronged.
Dad and I had the typical teenage moments, times when I was trying to stretch my wings and he was trying to rein me in. He was fond of Mark Twain’s line, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”
Then, when I was a bit older, in my 20’s, Dad used to pull me aside everytime I traveled home. Somehow, he and I would end up in a car or a boat together (usually the latter), alone, so he could “tell me a few things.” These “things” were always the same: how much he loved me, how proud of me he was, how he was so happy that I was making my way, how he felt blessed to have “this family”, and so on.
The first time this happened, I was so overwhelmed I could barely speak. I mean, I *knew* my father felt this way, but hearing it somehow made it more REAL, made it a memory which I could draw upon. (This scenario actually played out, essentially unchanged, many times over the subsequent years, so much so that my sisters and I used to laugh about it privately, saying, “I just want to tell Dad, ‘OK! I get it! You love me!!!’.”)
Then, in 1993, I came home to the news that my Dad had collapsed suddenly, without warning, while standing in line at JFK airport in NYC. We think he died of a blood clot after he and my mom took at trans-Atlantic flight home. He was 60 years old, and I remember thinking that I had no idea he would be gone from my life so soon.
Now, I cherish every one of those moments when he cut me away from the rest of the herd so he could tell me he loved me, and, frankly, I can even replay them in my mind whenever I am down and need a “pick me up.” What seemed awkward at the time has become a source of strength and assurance for me. As I thought of these moments in the months after his death, I realize how brilliant he was, to make sure I never doubted how he felt about me.
I made a vow that I would never be silent about my love for those who are close to me.
Tonight, after a somewhat bumpy day, I went into Blueberry’s room (as I do every night) and pulled his covers over him, pulled the books out from underneath him, repositioned his stuffed animals and then said, “Blueberry (ok, I used his real name), I love you and am so proud to be your daddy.”
I came into our bedroom and observed my beloved Ms. Plum, getting ready for a well-deserved night’s sleep. The tension of bumping heads throughout the day was still hanging in the air, and I was pretty certain that we could pick up where we left off, if given a chance. Weighing the myriad of things which I could have said after a somewhat challenging day (for both of us), I looked her straight in the eyes and said, simply: “I love you.”
In that way, my Father’s Day 2010 ended well.
Dad, there are many things you have left with me. Certainly, you taught me what it is to be a good father. You taught me to err on the side of love rather than the side of judgement. And, you taught me how important it is that all of the people close to me know how much I love them. This is, perhaps, the greatest legacy, one which I will try to fulfill and also teach Blueberry as he grows up.
Thank you, my beloved Dad. And, Happy Father’s Day.