This Sunday is Fathers’ Day here in North America. As I do every year, I’ve spent some time the last few days thinking about my own father, who died at the too-young age of 46 when I was just 8.
My memories of him are vivid, for all that they are few. Some of the stories I have of him were given to me by my mother. She didn’t speak about him very often—he was, after all, the love of her life, and she never stopped mourning his loss. She herself passed away just thirteen years after he did, and she was only 57 at the time.
I have no doubt whatsoever that my mother died, in part, from a broken heart.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been visiting the past quite a bit, trying to discover if I can bring the events from my childhood into sharper focus. Most of what I recall—especially about my dad—could be likened to snapshots—isolated little photographs of the man he had been, and of the father he was to me.
One thing I do know is that he read to me nearly every night. I recall three books in particular—a large fairy-tale type book with a story for every day of the year (the only one I can recall is the one for the date of my birthday, titled “The Oh Shucks Fairy”); he read to me from a series of books he got from the library about the adventures of a frog [all I remember of those is the frog’s unusual name: Wilberforth Wildwood Webfoot Water Lily Frog]; and of course, he read to me from the Bible.
Although he died in 1963, my father was a man ahead of his time. He cooked, he cleaned, and he did laundry. On Saturdays he would make sure we were up and dressed and fed and sent out the door to play. My mother worked outside of the home as a nurse at one of the hospitals in the city. She told me in later years that my father felt very strongly that if she had to go out and work, helping to do “his job” of providing for the family, then it was only right and fair that he do what he could to help her with “her job”—what in those days was called “women’s work”.
My son is very much a father in his grandfather’s image.
Sometimes I think our society takes fathers for granted. In truth, fathers have a very hard job. We expect them to be strong, to provide for the family, and to keep their loved ones safe. When the rest of us have moments of weakness—when our emotions get the better of us and we break—we expect the fathers to hang tough and soldier on.
We expect our daddies to make things right for us when they go wrong—whether it’s mending a broken doll, or mending a broken heart.
The best fathers do all that we expect of them, and more. They nurture and guide and counsel; they teach us how to ride bikes and how to fix the lawnmower; they lift us up and carry us when we’re too tired to make it on our own.
Fathers teach us by their good example how to live lives of honesty and integrity and value.
I hope you’ll take the opportunity to say “thank you” to the fathers in your lives; and if you are a father yourself, take a moment to take a bow.
Happy Father’s Day! I hope this Sunday will be a special day for you, when your families show you how much you mean to them. I hope you’ll allow yourselves to understand how special you all really are.
You’re important, fathers. You matter more than you can possibly know.