Father’s Day is not unlike a lot of holidays. I wake up no different. Yea I’m a Dad, it’s who I am and what I do, but my little family gets to say “But you’re our Dad.” On my birthday I think no woop, I was born, a year latter and I didn’t die, but thanks for noticing. And my family gets to say, “Thanks for sticking around.” On Veteran’s Day I think, I served, I got paid, I did my job. I’m a Vet, you’re a citizen, together we’re America. But thanks for noticing.
Do you get me, guys? Dads? Do you hear my words?
Chances are Dads aren’t reading my words. Either they think it’s not for them or down deep they hurt too much to see themselves in print. Dads default to shutting up, shutting down, containing our pain and carrying on.
We push through, right Dad? We pushed through the ceremony, the condolences, the awkward first-time meetings. We push through going back to work, taking care of family, focus on providing. I like stuffing with my turkey and in my relationships.
Guys, we’re good at stuffing. We never want to be that guy. Once two guys said something about my son’s death but when I started to reply, unknowingly one cut me off and said, “That’s okay, you don’t have to say anything.” Thing is, I did have something to say, but he just didn’t want to hear it. Saying something was too painful for him. Another time a guy from another part of the country came up to me a year later and said, “Oh hey if you ever want to talk, know that I’m here for you.” “No, you might be there for me, but you haven’t been here in a year and you won’t be here for another year.”
Both guys were trying to take care of me, trying to protect me, like protecting family. Thing is, they were really protecting themselves. They were lying—to themselves. Another thing Dads are really good at.
Hey Dad, are you still reading or is 448 words you limit?
We’re a competitive lot, Dads are. We are still four-year-old’s playing trucks in the sand. “Call me Bud, I’ll call you Joe.” “No, I want to be Bud. Move your truck, I’m coming through.” “You move, I was here first.” “I’ll just go around.” “I’ll build a bridge.”
Parallel play grows up and becomes parallel conversation. “My son is going to the academy.” “Well my son is backpacking in Europe.” The third thinks, “My son could kick your sons’ arses,” and says nothing.
Amazingly we built all the bridges, tunnels, and buildings without communicating or cooperating? Truth is, we did and we do, you just got to look for it. It’s not easy to see. We didn’t invent, “that makes me feel uncomfortable.” We invented sarcasm. We didn’t invent, “We really need to talk.” We invented just shut up and color. We work, it works, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
We just have a weird way of communing and communicating. I witnessed two grieving Dads whose sons were both killed on motorcycles get into an angry word fight over building a wall on the border. I saw anger over being out of control but I heard hostility. They both knew their feelings, yet they both got something out of the fight, but not enough. They both left unresolved, incomplete.
Dad, if you are still with me, thank you for working to complete a simple thought. We are angry. We can’t control this. We don’t have the words. But we do have each other. Stay with us Dad. We get you. We are you. It’s not great, not the best, but it works. And working is what we do.
I worked to write a book for you Dad and me. Please take a look at amazon.com/whensundaysmiled