It was Father’s Day Sunday morning and I was speaking to a local gathering about fatherhood and forgiveness.
This was a surprise to even me because my own father was perfect. He doesn’t need forgiveness. As was his father, perfect. Never went wrong. Never had a selfish thought. No, not once. And his father too. Always hit the bull’s-eye. And his father. Which is why, I suppose, I’m perfect too.
My children remind me of this once in a while.
In either case, I shared. And as a starting point, I shared this. I showed some family photos from over my own family’s generations. And then I asked my children to come forward.
First, Liz and Hannah held a woven blanket. On one side it was rather confusing, the pattern, or lack of, as life often can be. Mysterious. Unclear.
It was woven together like the ancient Hebrew Psalmist says that we, you and I, are knit together in our mother’s womb. Woven like we’re also woven into our families, woven together with Dad, and Mom, and Brother and Sister and Whoever.
Then my girls, the lovely assistants, turned the blanket the other way to show a rather beautiful illustration, an idyllic scene of a seaside home nestled in the hills, a lighthouse nearby. Ah, there is a pattern, after all, even if we can’t always see it. A purpose.
And then Jon came forward with, (it is Father’s Day, after all), a power tool. A skill saw, specifically. And while he told me that he could make a table or wardrobe or chair or other things for a home, the truth is if Jon was let loose with that power saw, he’d take down half of Canada.
For this illustration, he only (pretended to) cut the beautiful woven blanket. And it fell. And it lay on the floor. And stayed there torn, cut (so to speak) while I continued to share.
And so it goes sometimes, often, in fact, in this world. The fabric of our families are torn. And then the pain. And, sometimes, in time, with work and good fortune too, the forgiveness.
Because fathers, while they often have the power tools, are not perfect.
My own journey of fatherhood did and didn’t come as a surprise. When I was as young as three, I would, according to my own father, sometimes announce that when I grew up I wanted to be a father and a farmer.
Even so, later, as a young professional, there was neither any farm nor potential fatherhood to be seen or even cared for very much. I had other things to do.
And even later, as it unfolded for me eventually, I’ve found, more than anything, a surprise by the joy of fatherhood, surprise by the joy of seeing Fatherhood as Vocation.
At this link here and also below is little more on that from that fine publication that covers the heartbeat of Hamilton, the Spectator, from this past Father’s Day.
The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, June 14, 2014
HAMILTON, CANADA ✦ The sad truth is that the world is full of Charlie Gray sort of people who have listened to all the wrong voices and spent entire swaths of the only life they have doing things that haven’t mattered to them in the least, and, in the grand scheme of things, have mattered little to others also.
They’re people like in John Marquand’s novel “Point of No Return,” where Charlie Gray, after years of apple-polishing, is finally named vice-president of that fancy little New York bank, the promotion that finally gives him and his family the security they need.
You get the feeling, though, that what Charlie really needed was to give his life to something where he’d be more fulfilled and alive, where he could then be his family’s support in another way, through simply himself. Man, after all, cannot live on salary and status alone.
These thoughts, from writer Frederick Buechner, are so very worthwhile and especially now, this Father’s Day, in this strange and painful time when so many fathers are everywhere but with their children, a time when plenty of men, apparently, are also suffering a wholesale crisis in identity.
My own thoughts on being a dad started when I was just three, according to my own father, when I’d occasionally announce, “When I grow up, I want to be a farmer and a father.” But farming never came within a country mile and even after I married, well into my 30s, fatherhood was not a station I pursued with any impassioned energy.
Like most men, I found myself wired more as an achiever, an accumulator of accomplishments, a professional writer immersed, in my case, in the vocation of news gathering. Children? I suppose. As long as the little Lilliputians don’t rope down my other goals.
But now well into family-life with three remarkable children, something has happened. Something has changed. While my wife’s profession anchors our home financially – a dynamic that’s feasible for more families these days – I’ve been able to leave the Charlie Grayness of cultural expectations, that fog that says male accomplishment can only be measured in a certain way.
I’ve adjusted my definition of success so I can identify myself without embarrassment as a dad who works from home and with the children.
No, the “Do I ‘work’ or be with the kids?” question is no longer just for women. As another male author put it: “My books are popular now. In 20 years, I don’t know if anyone will remember them. But I know I’ll have a relationship with my kids in 20 years.”
That’s not to say that having a business card that says “The Daily Dad” doesn’t have some unusualness, if not humour.
Even so, it’s a privilege to be a father, and to embrace fatherhood even more as a vocation, to point to the sky and show the children great and marvelous things, to take them to the beach of life and, together with their mom, say, “This is how much you’re each loved, as much as these grains of sand on the seashore.”
This is the truth of it, says Buechner, that we must be careful with our lives because we only get one. The world can’t live it for us. Our decisions are ours only. We don’t need to tell each other this. But, then, maybe some days we do. Because the temptation is to think we have all the time in the world, when, in fact, nobody does.
He’s right. One decision leads to the narrowing of another to another. And then, yes, there often is a point of no return with certain things, important things, like relationships with our children.
My aging father largely raised two kids as a single dad after he, unheard of at that time, literally crossed the Atlantic to win custody of us. He wryly put it to me this way, recently: “We’re all getting older. But you don’t know yet what it means to live in your pine-box years.”
Yes, time is short for anyone. And the children wait and wonder. And, too often, hurt.