I was six years old when my father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. It robbed him of his dreams, sadly before I ever learned what his dreams were. I know he loved me, his only child, very much though he, a gentle and quiet man, rarely expressed it verbally. Every Father’s Day I think with regret of how little I knew about him and his life before me and yet how sure I was of his love. The distinct memories I have of him are few but treasured. My favorite memory is of the cottage on Lake Erie where we went each summer. I would sit on his lap on the screened porch, watching the spectacular lightning displays across the
Lake. My mother was terribly afraid of thunderstorms, so while she hid in the bedroom, my dad, determined that I would not catch her fear, persuaded me that storms were beautiful, powerful and wondrous natural events. I have loved them ever since and always think of him when the sky cracks open and flashes its power across the heavens. In that moment, I am the six-year-old child again, sitting safely in the arms of my father.
Fathers must be among the most powerful forces of human nature. In an over-simplifed, and in no way scientific, study, I have found few men or women who don’t have some kind of “father issues”. My theory is that fathers don’t understand their power...for good or for its opposite, which is usually not evil. They don’t understand, often until long after their influence has left an indelible stain, the desperation with which children, especially boys, long for their father’s approval. Some men seek it all their lives, convincing themselves that they are unworthy humans because their fathers never said, “Son, you’re OK as you are.” And so goes generation after generation.
This Father’s Day, I am especially aware of how powerful dads are. My youngest child, son Scott, will be celebrating his first official F.D. in the company of his beautiful twins, Claire and Jonah, six months old. He has elected to be the stay-at-home Dad and is doing a fabulous job of it. Yes, it clearly can be stressful, exhausting and complicated. But those children will grow up knowing their dad in a way that most kids never do. They will see his silly side, his vulnerable side, his confident side. They will hear him sing to them, see the thousand funny faces he can make. And they will know that he makes mistakes sometimes and can admit them. He might fantasize about being the perfect dad, but he also knows there is no such thing. He’s a grown-up man who loves his kids. And they will never have to wonder about that. What a gift!