Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Fathers Day!

Back a few months ago when daddy died and mom was goin' through his stuff, decidin' what to throw away and what to keep, she found an old Fathers Day card I'd sent him back in about '97. I sent it to him while I was livin' in San Marcos and goin' to grad school briefly to get qualified to teach Government. That means 18 hours of grad level credit in the subject. 6 classes. I started in the summer and went through the fall, keeping a 4.0 for the first time in my life. I guess I'd grown up a bit since the last stint in school.

I found a hilarious card that really summed up what I was feelin' at the time and wrote a letter to send with it. I wanted to tell him some of the stuff I'd figured out in the previous few years, since leaving the teaching gig on the ships and moving back home. I'd bought a cheap, reconditioned Brother word processor to write papers on and was getting back into the mood to write stuff down. Funny how writing all those papers will do that to ya. You get long winded, needing to fill pages with crap that sounds profound, tryin' to make the Prof think you know a thing or two.

I guess I'd figured a few things out by then and wanted to tell dad about it. In retrospect it's way to wordy and needed a lot of work, but I didn't have a few years of bloggin' under my belt then. It's amazing what I've learned about writing from actually doing it, and from reading all of your posts. You've all taught me so much. Anyway, here's what I said in that letter, along with a few little explanations.

Dear dad,

All joking aside, I just wanted to take the opportunity of Fathers Day to give you a few words expressing my love and profound admiration for you, and your choice in a spouse.

You know that we've had a sometimes arduous and distant relationship, and I must admit that there was a long period in my youth when I considered you to be my enemy. I think now that our life settings and experiences were so profoundly different, and our temperaments so profoundly similar, that we were destined from the outset to be in contention (sounds like a college boy, don't it?).

When I was growing up, I didn't see you as the father that I needed or wanted, and you seemed eternally disappointed in me. You were, it seemed to me, too busy being in charge of everything, both at home and at work, to allow me or anyone the chance to know you as anything but the boss, and usually you were a boss to be avoided.

We've been through a lot of trauma over the years, both individually and as a family. Miraculously, we made it through as a family, and I think you would agree that, despite the normal differences that we still encounter, we are now better able than most families to express our profound love for one another, and my tremendous respect for the both of you.

I began to see both of you in a different way some time in my 20s. I think it was both a function of my maturing and your mellowing, but I know it was heavily effected by your health issues. I guess our relationship went through some profound changes when you were laid out on that table and couldn't be the boss all the time. I was finally allowed to see a vulnerability and a need for me that I had missed before (that last bit is a reference to his heart attack and the side of him that I was allowed to see when he was weakened by that trauma, and I was thrust into a more adult role).

Equally important was our move back to Temple. I finally got a chance to see where you and mom had come from, and was able to appreciate how lucky Margaret and I were that, unlike many others, our parents had the drive and gumption to get out of Bell County and make a better life for themselves and their children (that's a reference to the fact that all of my dad's brothers stayed there, and stayed poor, though their kids grew up happy and well adjusted, which my sister and I always envied).

Both Margaret and I grew up feeling a bit weird because we hadn't had the "normal" upbringing that others had had. We both, without expressing it to one another, shared a sense of inferiority to many of our cousins who grew up in one place, and who had the opportunity to grow up with friends and extended families. As I grew to see the way things really are around here for myself, it began to dawn on me that sis and I were truly fortunate.

Rather than making us weird, the exotic experiences and places of our youth have made us better people, and we have both of you to thank for that. There is no way that either of us can ever repay you for all the things that you've done for us (not better people, but maybe more open minded and well rounded).

I simply want you to know that we both love you more than you can ever know, and that we both know that you love us, and that no matter what happens to us, or where we are in our lives in the world, our love for you is endless, and that we four will always be one, indivisible family unit.

Love, your son.
Happy Fathers Day!

Well, You know I was ballin' like a fool when I reread that so soon after his death. I'd totally forgotten about it. Looking at it again I find myself really glad that he lived long enough to relax a bit and let me be his friend, and that I'd found a way to forgive him for all of his shortcomings. Growing up puts a lot of things in perspective. In the end, he knew that I loved him, and I knew that he loved me.

I know there are a few of you guys out there who have a huge hole in your heart because you never heard those words from your father. My cousin Bob feels that way. His dad died too young, at about the age he is now, before he got old enough to mellow out and get sentimental. I know he suffers for that now, though he knows in his mind that his father loved him deeply. There's something about hearing the words that really matters, or not hearing them.

I'll never forget the day I heard them from Dad. It was some time in the early '90s when I was in my early 30s, home between ships. Out of the blue he asked "Did I ever tell you that I love you?" I was totally taken by surprise. I said something like "Uh, yea. I think so.", and he said "Well, I never heard that from my father. I just wanted to make sure you heard it." You could have knocked me over with a feather! Of course, I knew he loved me, but there's something about the words, spoken aloud, making it official somehow.

I hope all of you guys out there know how much you're loved, and express it, as often as you can, to your own kids. There's nothin' better in the world. Cheers, and Happy Fathers Day.


Sarge Charlie said...

hey boy, you made your daddy proud.

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

i am sure this day is very hard for you and i'm so sorry for that. you were a great son. wish sarge had one of those!!! (drat!!)

smiles, bee

Mushy said...

Oh, how much I can relate to this post. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Come to think of it, since I never heard those words I suppose I never said them either. Both too proud and stubborn I suppose. One or the other may have been enough to start the mutual admiration...we'll never know.

phlegmfatale said...

I know he loved you and was proud of you. You're a fine man, FHB, and a very great reflection on him, as a person. I'm happy for you both that you reached a point of forgiveness for his shortcomings, and that you had the gift of being able to get past your difficulties enough to enjoy each other's company as a father and grown son should be able to do.

I know this Father's Day had to be hard for you, and my heart goes out to you.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Thanks guys. And yes, surprisingly to me, it was hard day. It never meant so much before. Thanks again.

pat houseworth said...

Dad's been gone for over 35 years...but you still never get over the memories.

As far as the 'young man' in the photo....just one more reason that some mammals eat their young;)

Suldog said...

Nice, FHB, very nice.

I was lucky to have a Dad who never hesitated to say, "I love you." Never any question about it.

I know you miss your Dad terribly on this Father's Day, and I feel for you. God bless you.

My own Dad passed away 14 years ago today (the 16th.) I'd be honored if you'd stop by my place, look at some photos, and read my small reminiscence.

Hammer said...

A great tribute. You said it all.

Jerry said...

That was great. Your Daddy would be proud of you.

Becky said...

When my step-dad died, my mom told us how he kept all of the cards that the four of us had ever given him. I had no idea. It's weird with Father's Day now b/c I don't really celebrate it any more, but I'm glad that I at least had no "unspoken" words that I still wanted to say when he passed. On the flip side, my dad (whom I'm somewhat estranged from) is still alive, has cancer and I guess I do have unfinished business but not sure if I should address it or let it go.

This will be the hardest Father's Day that you've had to get through but I'm glad you at least had Denise and your friends to be with.

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Again, thanks guys. It means a lot.

HollyB said...

I'm late comin' by to post this comment...but here goes:
We, meaning those of us of a certain age, went thru growing pains with our Dads. Luckily for me, I grew up and told myself to quit acting like a child and ENJOY the time I had left with my Daddy. That was about 5 yrs before his cancer came back.
Oddly enough his last Father's Day was the BEST Father's Day we EVER had. 4 days together at a resort, relaxing, seein' the sights, talkin about all sorts of things. Less than a month later he'd get the diagnosis that his cancer had returned.
I think in many ways, I had it easier by losing him over a period of 4 months, rather than having to watch him go slowly the way you did with your Dad.
I know Father's Day was hard, Buddy. And I won't lie, all the biggies will be hard this first year. BUT, they get a little easier with time. And don't be afraid to let Denise and your other friends and fam help you get through them. A joy shared is increased. A sorrow shared is lessened.