Our Fathers, Our Selves
What was your relationship with your father when you were young?
How did it change as you grew? Did you go through those typical teenage years where you barely spoke, only wanted to be around your friends or be by yourself?
Did you learn to appreciate who he was later in life as an adult and have that change your whole outlook on him as a person?
I guess I was typical in that sense. Our relationship changed as I got older but really not until I had kids of my own and in his final years where I knew all he wanted in life was to have his family near him.
“We raised good kids Joanne.” He’d say to my mom. “That’s all that matters.”
That was certainly my goal raising my own two boys. Bring them up with the foundations they need of love, faith, trust, religion and help instill a sense of self. Today in their mid teens I am proud to say they are extremely well-adjusted young men. Polite, well-mannered, and bright. They continue to amaze me with the amount of self-confidence they have at their age that I certainly never had. They know exactly what they want to do with their lives/careers and are passionate about it. They are also really smart, honor-roll students with high GPA’s. They must get that from my dad and it certainly skipped a generation.
My kids are different from me in many ways, most notably is that as teens they still talk to me! They still want to hang out (okay not as much but it happens).
I never realized just how much I learned from my dad and the endless hours helping him around the house until I needed to replace a doorknob and deadbolt on my first home. I just went to the hardware store, bought what I knew I needed and did it without looking at the instructions. And surprise I got it right the first time!
Other lessons were less obvious.
My dad passed away at 95 years old. His final years saw a decline in his health that might typically accompany a man in his 90’s. When he died it was extremely sad but not so tragic. In his final years and through his death his life provoked a lot of thought on my part on what kind of man he was and what kind of father he had been.
I have to say I resisted knowing about my dad when I was younger and following in his path in a few ways. While I don’t regret not joining the Navy I do regret not taking to time to learn the most important thing I could.
Who he was. As a man, and as a person.
As I reflected on my own life in the years after his death it took me a long time to get to the point where I am today. The point where I can honestly say my purpose in life is to help people and have an affect on their lives and that I needed to do that, and that it needed to be for them, not for me.
I’m going to leave you here with 2 things. First, a simple thought:
Who are you today and is it, or how is it, a reflection of your father and your relationship with him?
And Second, a letter. I wrote this to my dad just recently, it would have been almost 4 years after his death but through my own journey of self-discovery, enlightenment and growth. I can honestly say this is the most important thing I’ve likely ever written and as such, it needs to be shared.
My hope is that through reading this you can reflect on your father, or mother, or grandparent, guardian or significant figure growing up, and really understand who they were as a person and what you gained from having them in your life. Whether or not they are still alive, I encourage you to write something similar to them and see how just putting pen to paper can change the course of your life.
You inspire me.
Who you were and how you inspired others continues to amaze me.
I wish I had seen exactly how much when I was younger. Much younger.
I wish I had taken the time to get to know this part of you sooner.
But I am ever grateful for finding this side of you after you passed. Seeing how many lives you touched and how they wanted to share this with our family had a lasting impression on me.
I have always struggled to find my way, my meaning, my purpose in life. After you died I looked at my own life and wondered who would or could, say anything about how I had affected theirs.
“Your kids!” people would say.
Yes, of course my kids and they are the most important people in my life and being able to help them grow and shape their minds and lives is magical.
But Dad, did the other parts of my life, my work, my world, have any impact on anyone? Really?
As I questioned myself, God answered as he often does, through others. I received a message from a young man named Marcus. He worked for me at one of the companies I was at. No employee had ever meant as much as he had. For various reasons.
In his message he said how much he appreciated me, my time, my guidance and my friendship. It was beautiful and the timing was perfect.
This message changed me dad.
I have had an affect on someone’s life. Even if he’s the only one I ever had the chance to teach, mentor, befriend and grow with, that’s enough. But from this message I made more of an effort to have some degree of the same relationship with others who worked for me. I hope that in any way Mike, Jerry and a few others can say they learned something from me.
When I reflect on that message from Marcus I think of you.
I love you Dad.
I hope you are proud of the man that I have become.
I hope you can forgive the childish and bratty behavior of my youth.
As well my foolish choices I continued to make through adulthood.
I know you are looking down on my with love and respect if for nothing else than teaming up with the right woman to raise two amazing boys. Their well-being will always be our first priority as ours were for you.
The more I reflect on your life and the more I learn about you, I see a life of service to and for others.
Your wife, your children, your extended family, your friends and parish. Most importantly I see that bringing meaning to their lives was not by intention. But always for them and always through your words and actions.
You didn’t take pride in this. This was never your agenda. This was simply who you were.
I know who I am.
(Finally right? I mean lets face it that only took 53 years!)
I am a helper.
I want to help people live a better life. I want to do it for them.
And I will do this with you in mind and I will do this with and through you and your strength.
Thank you Dad.
I love you.