My father was a person book writers dream about, a mystery unto himself. I remember him always looking for work and, when he found it, working all the time. Throughout his life, one or two or even three jobs were the norm. He was a bit on the small side with a big chip on his shoulder and a left hook that surprised many (fighting was an expression and a statement for him). He was cheerful and angry, content and non-content, irritable and quick-tempered, loving in his way and hurting.
We didn’t hug in those days. Saying I love you came late to the family. In some ways, kids were ignored. My father didn’t share much of his life. I don’t know his heritage, grandmother or grandfathers. His brother was rarely mentioned, and his stepsister’s history didn’t happen around the family get-togethers. There were no stories of the past. I believe they contained shame that many owned; I’m sure my dad’s did.
Our family lived in the traditional roles that mother and father played in the past. There wasn’t time for bonding with my dad. I felt alone, detached and distant, and I lived in my own separated world. Fending for myself with little guidance, direction or knowledge of what to do next. What was expected of me?
Yet somehow this man that couldn’t say “I love you”, hug you or share a true feeling or emotion made me secure in knowing that I was protected, loved and important. How he did that I do not know.
I know now that people love in different ways, shaped by situations, timing and circumstances. How could my dad pass to me a hug, express an emotion that he had never experienced? Growing up through the Great Depression he was alone. He had no real mom or dad in his life— they were gone for reasons that were never shared. I do know he ended up on the streets, fighting for food in clubs, sleeping in parked cars. I wonder if he ever felt loved.
I guess I got carried away with this and need a point. People mostly do the best they can with what they have been given. My dad did his best, and I appreciate him for that. I love him for teaching me without education, worldly knowledge or book smarts. He made me feel loved. Through the years I have come to appreciate him so much more. I am so lucky that I never had a resentment toward my parents or a need to forgive them, because I believe there is nothing to forgive them for. I can only speak for myself, and for me, my dad did the best he could. Looking at his life allowed me to see his way of loving, of giving in the only way he knew how. Work, provide, be there.
I hope this doesn’t come across as a bit sad. For it was really a story of appreciation and exposure. As with all things, we have new awareness of the role fathers play, and today I am proud of the men I see—involved, responsible, loving the art of being a father and embracing the journey of fatherhood.
Men—keep going, make the memories, enjoy and set the examples for our future, for it is the family that still is the backbone of society. Join hands with the moms and make a difference together. But this is about Father’s Day, so I will leave you with this. One day is not enough time to say thank you to our dads.
In peace, love and laughter,
Joe Dunne, Publisher