As I celebrate my first Father’s Day as a father myself, I am better able to reflect on the blessings in my life. Much can be said on the paramount importance of a good father in the formation of a boy, but this post isn’t to address that important issue. This is a letter highlighting the paramount importance of you in my formation.
Growing up I had assumed all fathers were similar. I thought, aside from a few exceptions, every boy had to deal with a dad who always wanted to know what they were up to, how they were doing, made them sit down to family meals, corrected them when they were wrong, or embarrassingly told them “I love you”. I saw your seeming obsession of being there as a perpetual nuisance. I rolled my eyes when you were there for me doing something good and I scowled when you were there for me doing something not-so-good (which was much more common). For a while I viewed you as my archenemy. You too often stood in the way of me doing the things I wanted to do. You were the face of the stubborn facts of life. And despite the cliché, I had no problem taking it out on the messenger: You. I argued with you, I rebelled against you, and I disowned you. There were times you must have thought I was hopeless, but you never gave up. Thank God.
Now I see things much more differently: I see how my peers approach life in context of how they were raised, I recognize the crumbling families on and off the TV, I have found the Church, and I am a father. It’s funny because when we are children, it’s easy to think adults are all so similar…like they are all in agreement and have the same motivations for their children. It’s kind of like how children imagine teachers in the teacher’s lounge. But once we grow up and get a glimpse of just how other adults live away from the eyes of their children, we realize that all fathers are definitely not the same. A lot of dads don’t understand or don’t care how important their role is. For many dads being a dad isn’t anything much different than being a weekend golfer; if somebody asked them to describe themselves, the first item on their list probably wouldn’t be “father”, it would probably list their career and recreational identities first.
Not all dads make sure there is a permeating voice of truth in their children’s lives. I notice that lots of dads, especially in my generation, are still children themselves. These ‘adolescent’ dads seek to satisfy their own selfish appetites before the needs of their children–the needs beyond bodily nutrition and physical shelter. Thankfully you showed me how a real man acts in fatherhood: By providing for my needs through selfless loyalty and love. You molded me by the love you showed me, even though it took a while to chip away at the corrupted enamel that coated my soul to realize it.
From as early as I can remember, even through our difficult years, I have memories that will stay with me forever and have formed me into the father I see myself as and have yet to become. I remember staying up late with you and watching The Wonder Years. I remember going to the park at dusk to look for tadpoles in the pond. I remember roughhousing in the pool, following you with my bubble mower as you mowed the lawn, and playing at your office. I remember going to the grocery store to get Pit Stop sport drink, french fries, cheese balls, and other treats on the nights it was just us. I remember listening to Charlie Brown Christmas before going to bed…year-round. I remember riding on your shoulders, on your back, and bouncing on your knee to your best impression of what a horse sounds like. I remember camping with you, riding bikes with you, the turtle we named that lived by the hospital, and building hobby rockets with you (one of which never seemed to come back). I remember going to the botanical gardens, the Ground Round, and Gilles–and bouncing on the loose railroad tie in the front. I vividly remember so many things and it makes me excited to make memories for my children. But most of all, I remember you wanting to be with us. I was spoiled by the fact that you were always there. I never wondered if my dad was going to show up for me. I never wondered if you were going to be the weak link in any of my situations. You were the constant in my life full of variables.
A real man doesn’t seek being macho, a real man has no problem being gentle and he takes care of their children’s emotional formation. I remember you telling me with happiness that you loved me during good times and looking me in the eyes with urgency to tell me you loved me in bad times. You always made sure I knew I was loved. You also made sure to tell me you were proud of me; now I realize how important it is for a son to feel the approval of his father. It’s funny because now I find myself naturally telling my son–at only nine-months old–“wow, I’m proud of you!” when he eats his whole bowl of food, or he stands up, or he figures out a new toy. He doesn’t understand it yet, but he will grow up with words of love from as early as he can remember just like I did. Because of how you raised me, he won’t know of any other type of fatherhood, and his son won’t know any other type of fatherhood. Because of you, generations of children will have parents that know what it means to be a parent and know what it means to love.
Strengthened by your example, it’s my turn to be the lighthouse of truth when the tides of my son’s life get rough. It’s my turn to lead him by administering selfless love that only a father can provide to a son.
Thank you for being my teacher in the sacred vocation of fatherhood. Thank you for being a real man and never giving up on your son. Thank you for saving me.
I want you to know that I love you back. I want you to know that I pray for you every day.
Dear Christ, please bless my father for all the good works he’s selflessly done through your grace in his 31 years of being a dad.
Most Blessed Mother of God, please always intercede for my father, that his prayerful petitions are granted and that he always finds peace and love in his life.
Saint Joseph, I beg you to pray for my father, that he finds the strength he needs physically, mentally, and spiritually to continue fulfilling his sacred role of fatherhood even as a grandfather now.
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend my father in spiritual battle from the evil forces in our world that seek harm to the souls of men like him.