Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers' Day

Today is Fathers' Day. I am sitting here early on Sunday morning trying to collect my thoughts about exactly what this day means. For many, it is is a day for family to gather to celebrate and honor the men in our lives. For others, it is a day of rememberance of a man whose impact is written in the history of their lives.

I always feel conflicted on Fathers' Day. It reminds me that my life was more complicated than I wanted it to be. And although I am very blessed that I have an abundance of people in my life, I have had to live with having to choose...with doubting my importance...and with being unable to prove to anyone the depth and sincerity of my feelings. Recently, I've stopped doing that. I've decided that I'm going to choose to love the circumstances of my life, and to let go of the painful past. I'm just going to love people for who they are and what they are to me. I've considered everyone else's feelings for long enough. It is time to just live and breathe.

I remember being a little girl and having my grandfather alive. He was usually perched in his favorite blue recliner in the family room of my grandmother's house. He drove an old blue car that smelled faintly of cigars and he didn't talk very much. I remember going out with him one morning on his "rounds" he greeted friends and went through his morning routine. I don't exactly remember what we did, but I have a distinct impression that I was wanted there. Sadly, it is the only memory that I have of him spending one on one time with me although there were probably other times. I know that he was reliable, smart, and a good Christian man. Everyone who knew him had a very high opinion of him. I'm really proud of that.

Sadly, he died when I was eight. We had spent the better part of my early years living in New York, Pennsylvania, and Mississippi. I remember my mother getting the telephone call that he had passed very unexpectedly...just a few short weeks before my great-grandmother died. I wasn't allowed to go to the funeral, but I remember all of the people in my grandmother's house...which became my house just a few weeks later when my parents divorced and we moved.

My father was 23 years old when I was born. He has always been a hard worker and a dream chaser. I think I tend to be like that as well. He was the 11th of 13 children...and family reunions were not only large and fun, but are some of my favorite childhood memories. He has been bearded through most of my rememberance, and tended to collect speeding tickets at an alarmingly higher rate than the general population. He is philosophical, talented, and self-educated, and has distinct opinions about the world in general. Those who disagree are allowed to...but it doesn't please him. We disagree vehemently on politics, religion, and "I Love Lucy"...but if we avoid those subjects, all is well.

He is uncommunicative until he reads the morning newspaper, has his cereal, and finishes the crossword puzzle. He loves the beach, the theater, and Austin, Texas. When I was a little girl, I remember him asking me questions such as, "What is more important?...Money or the moon?" Future finance major that I was...I answered "money"...and he responded that money would not always be there...but the moon always would. I suppose that's true.

In my dad's absence, Mr. Billy Daniel from across the street took care in helping to oversee those things that we could not do in our house of women. He put together bicycles and toys at Christmas, encouraged us with his wonderful sense of humor, and even saved my groom and candlelighter on my wedding day by providing them with black shoes from his men's store. The tux rental company in Montgomery had given David white shoes in error. He had not noticed this until Sunday morning - our wedding day - and Belk didn't open until 1:00 that afternoon. The wedding was at 2:00. My candlelighter had also left his shoes in Atlanta. It was a near-disaster, but he saved the day for us.

He and Miss Charlene also gave me a normal view of what marriage should look like at a time when I needed desperately to see one. I will always be grateful for that. Always.

When I was fourteen, my mother married Ralph. He had been a bachelor for years...including some time in a monastery in Conyers. He really wasn't sure what he's gotten himself into with two girls - ages 8 and 14 in addition to a wife. But after a brief rocky phase, he bought in. I've always been grateful that he spite of the fact that he jokes about returning to the monastery to get some peace from time to time. I suppose that it helped that they moved when I was 17 and I went to college a year later...but he has unfailingly been one of my biggest cheerleaders for as long as I can remember. I have not always been an easy person to love...but in his eyes I can do anything I set my mind to do. When I have really had something that I needed to work through...I've called him to get his advice. I treasure his opinion. Having the confidence that I was valuable and that I was loved has made the difference to me in many ways that I can only fully appreciate now that I am grown.

I met David - the father of my two children - when I was nineteen years old and trying to figure out my life. He altered the course in every important way, and gave me two wonderful children who are beautiful and precious to me beyond measure. He has been a solid father...a low-key, laid-back, always-in-the-bleachers kind of dad, and I appreciate his calmness, wisdom, and stability more than he knows. Our children are remarkably well adjusted because they have the confidence of knowing that he is there...and that we'll work through whatever difficulty it is. He is the person that they want when they are sick, sad, or need an attitude adjustment. He is more often than not the voice of reason.

With David, I married into a wonderful family that includes my father-in-law. He teased and joked with me, and encouraged me to keep trying to put a decent meal on the table...even when I wasn't much of a cook. He has been a warming presence in my life, and I know that I was adopted as a daughter in his heart all of those years ago. When I was sick with toxemia and pregnant with Jill...and about to be put in the hospital...I called him. David was out of town on business and my parents weren't nearby. He found out what hospital I was going to (I'd failed to leave that message on the answering machine), and came immediately to sit with me. He also has the distinction of being the only person who didn't get on my nerves even one time while I was pregnant. I do not do "hormonal" well at all.

He built wonderful things for my home that I treasure, and he makes me smile when he is around. He had some health problems a few years back, and he doesn't see as well as he'd like right now. But he has been solid and good and giving. Those traits were passed directly to his sons and grandsons.

One day - after he is grown up a bit more and married - I hope my son will be a father. I want to see him carrying on the tradition of the other wonderful fathers who have so enriched my life. My oldest nephew on David's side is going to be a father this November. I remember the day that he was born - on the 4th of July in 1983. I have no doubt that his son will be as special to the life of the family as he was...or that he will be anything but an excellent father. Technically, this is his first Fathers' Day. Next year, his seven-month old son will be in his arms.

Fathers' Day is special for many gives us a chance to pause and reflect on the blessings we have from the presence of the fathers in our lives. The fathers that may not be of blood relation...but through a kinship of the heart. We take time to reflect, smile, or grieve. Because the men in our lives - for better or worse - left imprints on our life that cannot be erased. And for that...I am immensely grateful.

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