We all have a father. However, many of us did not grow up having a good or memorable relationship with our fathers, especially when we were young. I was one of those who did not.
There were and are many things about my father that are admirable. He works hard, did the best he could for his family, and was faithful to my mother throughout their life together (she died a little over two years ago). But there were also difficult things about my dad. He had a terrible temper, was unrestrained in his application of corporal discipline (at least to me, the eldest), and appeared unable to relate to his children growing up. When he tried to give me “the talk”, his attempt at personal interaction was so out of context I thought he was about to tell me something terrible. We never seemed to connect. Even though he ran track in high school he never came to see me run. As I think back, there were times I felt like a burden or an afterthought, that if I just disappeared, he wouldn’t even notice.
That said, he has lived long enough that he has had time to change and he has. Oh, he still has the rough edges, the temper waiting just below the surface, but over the last ten years he has genuinely attempted to reach out to me and express his love for me. I can still remember the first time he told me he loved me, something I had to wait almost fifty years to hear. It was in the kitchen of my parents home and my wife and I were about to leave to drive home to Baltimore (my dad lives in Florida). Even though he broke the ice that night, it is still hard for him to say, very hard, but when he does I know that he absolutely means it, that deep down in his heart there burns an intense love for me, despite his flawed ability to express it.
Part of being a good son, especially for a Christian man, is accepting, forgiving, and working within our father’s failings. While there are many things about my father’s and my relationship that I wish I could go back and change (I bet we all think that), I would never want to have to give up my appreciation of the hard won victory that allows him to now tell me that he loves me. Sometimes, what appears to be a small thing is the result of a titanic struggle. So on this Father’s Day I feel blessed that my father won that particular battle with himself and on this special day of fatherly recognition I just want to say thank you to him for having fought the good fight and won. And, I will remember and appreciate his victory every time he tells me he loves me. Thank you dad.