My father died thirteen years ago so I have to send this blog article out to him in whatever part of cyberspace our souls go when they leave our bodies (Do they actually go somewhere in cyberspace? I don't know. That’s probably a discussion topic for a different time). He was the youngest of three boys who grew up in West Texas during the Great Depression. His father, whom I never met because he died of cirrhosis of the liver before I was born, was an alcoholic who divorced my grandmother and abandoned the family. From what I’ve heard, he probably wasn’t much of a role model when he was around. He sure didn’t stick around for anyone to find out.
My grandmother, bless her heart (that's what we Texans say before we make a judgmental comment about someone) was one of the coldest, non-nurturing human beings ever to walk the face of the planet. Given those circumstances, it's not surprising that my father had flaws as a parent. The surprise is what a fine job he did overall. In my youth, I tended to focus on his flaws as a parent. Today, I'm remembering all the wonderful, subtle things he did. For example, he coached my little league team even though he had no interest in or talent for baseball. He attended most of my junior high and high school basketball games as well. I’m sure he was bored stiff but he was there. He took me hunting and fishing on a frequent basis and taught me a good deal about both of those sports. Of course, one of the main things in which he gave me an inordinate number of lessons was the art of cleaning fish. I was in charge of that task. Lucky me…now I can clean fish with the best of’em. I got some good puns out of it, too. “Can you believe I worked for scale doing this crappie job?”
It occurs to me that we have this Father's Day thing backwards. It's nice for everyone to give fathers gifts and thank us for doing what we're supposed to do anyway. I certainly appreciate it. I maintain, however, that fathers everywhere should thank our children for allowing us to engage in what I believe is the highest calling available to humans...parenthood. Knowing that there are individuals for whom you would give your life in a heartbeat to protect is ennobling. I didn’t know that feeling until my son was born. I experienced it again when my daughter was born. I still feel that way.
No matter what else I might accomplish in my life, it will always pale in comparison to what I've experienced as a father. I have my children to thank for that gift. So I offer a heartfelt thank you to them. Thanks, in particular, for giving me so many opportunities to develop infinite patience. Chris- how many coats did you lose during your fourth grade year? We had some serious concerns about your mental functioning at the time. Obviously, this was not an accurate predictor of your future academic and professional success. Adrianne- remember when we drove all the way across town to your ballet performance only to find when we arrived that you'd left your costume at home...and I let you live!! Now, as an adult, you find your way all over New York City, a town that terrifies me. You seem to get where you need to go with what you need to have in order to function.
So to my children, thanks to both of you for motivating me to try to be the best person I could be so that I wasn't a total hypocrite when I expected that of you. The fact that I wasn't always successful in this endeavor helped me to be more compassionate and understanding...well, okay, most of the time. Most of all, thanks for giving me the opportunity to love another human being unconditionally. And thanks to my father...thanks for doing the best you could under some pretty tough circumstances. I wish you could see the roadrunners we have out here in New Mexico; I know you'd get a kick out of them. Happy Father's Day.