Father’s Day quickly approaches and I find myself unexpectedly tearful. Dad died last July 13th; this Father’s Day is my first without a father. And... I am unexpectedly tearful.
I’m not sad Dad died; Alzheimer’s ensured no remnant of him remained. I am deeply mournful of his last years, watching all of him trickle away.
His moments of anguish were mine, those shocking moments when he knew.
“I know my brain doesn’t work good anymore,” he said, tears trickling down his cheeks. “Help me,” he pleaded. I held him and loved him, it’s what there is to do when Alzheimer’s comes calling. Moments like that were islands in the stream of belligerence, arguments, combat, and confusion. He was more vacant with each trip home, his words more spare, his expression more wooden.
“What DO you think of Dad?” I asked during one of his more lucid moments.
“Nothing,” he said with a wide-eyed look of astonishment, “Absolutely nothing.”
In some ways, I think it was easier when he no longer knew, once his thoughts quiesced.
In looking beyond his undoing, there is much to celebrate in my father. He was a man of his time, hardworking and dutiful. A child of The Depression, he knew hunger, and poverty, and resourcefulness. He vowed he would never be that hungry again, that hunger would be a stranger to his home and children. Dad made good on his word. Our garments were home-sewn; we didn’t have much but we had a “Roof over our heads and food on the table.”
Viewing the gestalt of his life, he did well. He fulfilled his evolutionary duty raising and fledging offspring. He climbed the socioeconomic rungs from poverty and provided for his family even in death. Dad was successful by any measure.
In viewing him as a soul seeking expression and fulfillment in the world, I fear he fared poorly. Undoubtedly, full self-expression was not on his radar - but if it had been - what would it have been? Dad loved his family and he loved to sing. He loved Rogers & Hammerstein musicals and the outdoors: hiking, skin diving, scuba diving, and fishing. I don’t remember him doing much of what he loved. In fact, I know very little about what he loved or how, when, and IF it found expression. Typical of his time, Dad was stilted in his expressions of love. He seemed bound by duty and suppression, trapped in roles, and for that, I grieve.
Concerning men at large as a seemingly separate species and alien unto myself, I can be critical of their obsession with sports and its trivia. And of their fascination with cars, guns, and gadgets. Contrarily, Dad did not seem to have passions. Was I oblivious or was there no space or will for his passions to bloom? I fear his passions trickled away decades before his mind.
Men step or misstep into this role that occupies their thoughts, time, will, effort, attention, and intention. Fatherhood subsumes their lives. We seldom see our fathers sans the Father-Filter. But if we did, if we viewed them as souls seeking expression and fulfillment in the world - what fertile ground could we till for them?
Father’s Day is a day set aside to ensure we acknowledge and remember fathers. I am remembering mine and acknowledging the many fathers that grace my life.
On this Father’s Day - learn the passions of one father you love
and nurture his expression in the world.
Happy Father’s Day to all fathers past, present, and future.
may we know them,
may we nurture them,
may we be them,
may we raise them.