Dad, when I think about Father's Day I think about missed opportunities with you.
I remember we, your three children, or at least I, the youngest one, bought you a pipe every year on Father's Day. This continued for what seemed like five to ten years. I am pretty sure, looking back, that we were still buying pipes and pipe cleaners years after you actually quit smoking.
What would have happened had we tried to give you a more meaningful gift? Something that was about affection and knowing and liking you – I won't even use the "L" word – instead of a present demonstrating that we knew you.
Did a pipe even show that we knew you as much as it showed that we knew you once smoked a pipe? Did you even smoke the pipe after I was born? You must have, but I do not remember it and you are not smoking a pipe in any photos I have seen. Later, probably around the time I turned 10, we switched to a present other than a pipe.
Here then should have been the switch to something meaningful.
I pause as I type this to think about some work I have been doing recently. I have been working with a boy with special needs and we have been playing checkers, Uno, bowling, and pool.
Often people have mistaken him for my son and it is a weird feeling to be mistaken for a father. And yet it is a great compliment, and encouraging, to be told I work well with him considering we have only known each other for about one month.
In light of all that, I have to wonder why we did not spend Father’s Day doing activities together. I don't think it was just our relationship; I think it is common with fathers.
On Mother’s Day I generally hear families talk about cleaning for mom or taking mom to a
Movie or restaurant they think she will like. On Mother’s Day, families seem to focus on doing something, as opposed to, on Father’s Day, buying something.
I used to have very conflicted emotions, as you've probably figured out. There were times when I vowed to be as different from you as possible so I could avoid what I considered your flaws: Not talking about emotions, feelings, and doubts. I used to focus on the saying, "Like father, like son" and vow to break that chain of repetition.
In the years since you died, my negative thoughts about you have slipped away and
I have realized all the positive ways you touched my life. I would probably not be a news junkie who needs to read at least one newspaper a day, were it not for you. My entire journalism career can, I think, be traced to you.
My curiosity and experimenting with new tasks comes from you. I remember your rule that nobody at a meal at a restaurant can order the same thing because that would result in less variety of foods and flavors.
When I have experimented in recent years with digital photography, that comes both from your photography hobby and wanting to use other parts of my brain. Working at looking at the world through a camera lens instead of through the prism of a writer has been an interesting, sometimes successful mission and one that I know you would applaud.
I dearly wish there were ways I could have told you some of these thoughts while you were still alive, perhaps on Father’s Day itself. Instead we switched from buying you pipes to purchasing books and diaries for your jogging. You know there were times when I was jealous of you jogging? I thought of it as a hobby that kept you away from spending quality time with me and the family.
Looking back, I have to admire your dedication, devotion, and perseverance to your
regimen. I know I have nothing near that kind of focus when it comes to exercising.
I wonder what qualities about me you admired. You never really told me and that stung for so many years. Only after you died did I learn that while you did not compliment me,
you bragged on me to your brothers and sisters. I responded by writing a column asking
every parent to tell their kids that they loved them instead of making them wonder.
Over time I have concluded that you did love us, you just did not use the l word. And I loved you, too.
So on this Father's Day weekend, Dad, I hope that somehow, some way, you are able
to read this and know what you mean to me.