Saturday, June 17, 2006

To Dad for Father's Day

Dear Dad,

You didn't have the easiest job in the world trying to make me into the man you wanted me to be. I was stubborn, willful and generally not a very likeable kid all the time.

I did inherit some things from you. I always try to do the right thing, even though I don't always make the right decisions. My heart is in the right place. I love my people. I tend to be instrospective, though I'm not as thoughtful as you usually are about things. And though I'm not able to be a biological father myself, I do love the feeling of being a father of a sort. I take it as seriously as you do, and I'm willing to put out whatever effort and sacrifice it takes to make sure my "kids" get what they need and deserve.

I remember one time when I was little you spanked me. Mom was usually the one who did that sort of thing, but that time I'd been an especially eggregious little shit, and Mom tapped you for the job. I knew at the time you didn't like doing it, but you did it because you thought it was the right thing. It was.

I remember when I was 14 and broke my arm. While I was in traction for a month, you kept banging your head on the apparatus holding my arm up, and that hurt. It hurt worse to see how badly you felt about it. You've gotta admit, it's fun to think about now, though.

You watched with pride when I got my Eagle Scout award. Afterward, you shook my hand. That was worth more to me than anything else I can think of.

I remember once I was out on the deck crying over a girl that was very important to me at the time. You came out and just stood by me. You were feeling my pain and not saying anything...and you just put your hand on my shoulder and stood with me. That was just the right thing to do for me at that time. Your quiet, wordless reassurance has been a constant presence all my life, and I try to provide the same kind of thing to my foster kids. I guess I probably use more words than you do...but sometimes I think of you and just shut up, because sometimes that's the best thing to do. Sometimes words just get in the way. You taught me that.

I remember the letter you sent me at a very low point in my life, in the summer of '90. I kept that letter for years, and I may still have it. I had just quit college...your letter was one of the reasons I went back and finished what I started. I simply could not allow the disappointment I read in that letter stand. I inherited my core of steel from you, too, though mine usually shows in much different ways.

I remember the day I finally left the nest for good, bound for the Big City to seek my fortune. In a sense, that was my final good-bye hug, and I knew it at the time. Whatever happened after that, I knew I was never coming home again except as a visitor. Time to be a man.

All the trips you took me on. All the times you drove the boat so I could ski. All the times you've helped me with projects around the house. All the times you've helped me fix my car. All the times we walked together and talked with each other--as father to son, as friend to friend and as man to man.

I still feel a deep sense of shame for the times I've let you down. The time I was 12 years old and got caught shoplifting a candy bar, I still remember how you sat that night on my bed next to me and cried. I don't remember another time offhand that you ever cried...unless maybe when your brother died. You don't know how it's pained me over the years every time I realized that I'm the only one I know of that ever made you cry with shame and disappointment. I also know that the only reason you felt that shame and disappointment was because I was everything to you.

It must have been very difficult for you all those years to watch me try to destroy myself. I can imagine the hurt--and hope--you must have felt when you first heard I had been arrested for DWI. That episode pains me less than the others, because it was the start of my "awakening". It was then that I found my sense of self-worth, mostly missing for a decade or so, and began to live my life after your example again.

In the time since then, I hope that I've improved your opinion of me and my life. I hope I've made you proud. I plan on spending the rest of my life continuing to try to make you proud of whatever I'm doing. I won't always succeed, but I'll always try.

A series of books I love describes the sense of having betrayed or shamed yourself as "forgetting the face of your father". That seems to me a particularly apt phrase. For a long time, I forgot the face of my father. Then I finally remembered it, and I promise you here and now that no matter what difficulties I find in life from here on out, I will continue to remember it for as long as I live. I hope that I'm able to live my life in such a way that I'm able to make it smile with pride.

You're my idol. You're my role model. You're my father. I love you, Dad, more than I quite know how to say. And I still want to be just like you.

All my love,
Dan

2 Comments:

At 8:15 AM , Blogger Garrent said...

That's beautiful. You both are very lucky.

 
At 10:00 AM , Blogger Julie said...

Well said. sounds like your dad did a great job and you have grown up to be a good man. You should both be proud. Happy Father's Day to you both.

 

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