In the life of a man, there comes a time he realizes that his father had a point about certain circumstances.
There are those moments when you may find yourself parroting a lecture you heard when you were twelve. Truth be told, history does repeat itself, and for us as fathers, it tends to do so through our children. The same mistakes, decisions, and stupid stunts come back to haunt us, maybe not in the exact forms but close enough to make us realize where we’ve seen all this before.
Many men will also be able to reflect how their fathers handled the situation and used something from the old man’s playbook to deal with their miniature version of themselves. For me and many others, however, that isn’t the case, we don’t have that experience to fall back on. Far too many dads today have to deal with their children without the foundation that can only be poured by a father.
My dad abandoned my family a few months before I was born; he was gone from our lives for thirty-four years. I finally met him, on his death bed–the day before he died. In his final hours, I was able to get no understanding, and little interaction, he was sick and on death’s door. I left his hospital room with no closure and no answers. As I loaded my sons into the car to leave, I reaffirmed a decision I made when I was a kid. The decision that my children would know their father–would know that he loved them and that as long as I had air in my lungs I would be there for them.
There are a lot of things I wish I could have asked my father, many stories I wish I could have shared with him. The lifetime of memories he never knew about, and the joys he never experienced, but most importantly, things I needed him to know about me. These are a few of those.
- I really did need you— My mom did the best she could with what she was given, and my grandmother gave a tremendous amount to make sure I turned out to be a decent human being. However, no matter what success or heights I have ever or will ever achieve in my life could have been just a little better. No matter what you thought of yourself, or how bad your life was, I needed you there. I needed you to discipline me, I needed you to teach me, I needed you to love me. I needed you to be there for me to love in return.
- You are part of who I am— While you had absolutely zero to do with my upbringing and no interaction with me at all, you played an integral part in who I am today. You never hugged me; you never told me you loved me, you never tucked me in at night. Every one of those things you didn’t do sticks with me to this day. They drive me; they motivate me, they make me determined to be a better man, husband, and father. I want my family to experience all the things a father should bring to the dynamic. I want my sons to have the foundation that I never had to stand on.
- I hate what you did— I won’t for one second be one of those people who are able to say things like, “Oh I’m better of for what happened” because I know that’s not true. I absolutely hate what you did, and I hate why you did it. You had options, you had people willing to help, and you had plenty of reasons not to leave. I am not a better person today because of it; I am a decent person today in spite of it. You could have destroyed me; thankfully others were there to fill some of the voids you left.
- I love you— As odd as this may seem, I do love my dad, a man that I spent a grand total of about five hours with. I love the memories of others about you, the stories I’ve been told. I love the man you were at one time in your life. I love the man you could have been for me. You made a terrible decision and a horrible mistake that haunted you the remainder of your life. I love what never had a chance to be.
- I forgive you— I’ve always said that I wouldn’t use your abandonment as a crutch, that I wouldn’t allow it to keep me from reaching my full potential. I haven’t, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t nag at me and follow me into every corner of my life. It still haunts me somewhat today, and most likely always will. However I forgive you, I can do no less. If I don’t, then I can never hope to be free from the weight you burdened me with. My children deserve better, and in a way, you made sure they would receive better.
Men, we have a short period of time to be there. We have a limited number of opportunities to make an impact. Don’t squander the time, don’t let the moments slip through your fingers. There are many burdens placed on our lives don’t let any of them, no matter how big, take you away from your responsibilities as a husband and father. We have foundations to help build. Your children have things to tell you, be there to hear them.
Photo: Flickr/ Malik_Braun