Fathers are being honoured today in restaurants, golf courses and in many other venues, particularly at home. Along with my wife Heidi, I spent yesterday with my oldest son and his oldest son in celebrating the first birthday of our first great granddaughter. It was three generations of fathers celebrating the joy of having a little girl in our lives. I couldn’t help but thinking of how much my dad would have enjoyed the occasion.
I have witnessed the loving guidance my son and his wife used in bring up their sons and how that is being repeated in the new generation. I am pleased.
This past week I heard people on the radio station sharing the inspiration and lessons they received from their fathers. I struggled, at first, to remember anything like that from mine.
I do not recall him ever hugging us or even offering words of encouragement but I still idolized him. In his day, men rarely showed affection. I grew up with that influence and accepted it as the norm.
Fortunately, I outgrew those attitudes.
My first wife and I had four children and then started taking in foster children – twelve of them, as I recall.
Getting on the floor roughhousing with children, tossing squealing boys above my head, brushing little girl’s hair, and inventing preposterous bedtime stories brought profound changes in my life. Considering losing my mother at an early age and my military training, it brought out a gentleness in me I never would have expected.
Children do not come with instruction manuals and young people often spurn advice. Somehow, however, we manage. The opportunity to be a dad to all those kids, and three more later, offered me lessons in how to love, share and be responsible that I would not have learned elsewhere.
Without the influence of children, I might have wound up like many of the fathers I have counselled over the years. These were men who repeated the mistakes they swore they would make in doing what their fathers had done to them. They were sometimes angry, indifferent, uncaring or violent. It was the world they had known while growing up. I knew that world well at one time.
Repeating mistakes is normal unless we are confronted with some reason to change. Blaming others for our upbringing may seem like a good excuse, but it does nothing to bring about happiness and fulfillment. For your life to change, you must change.
My dad was born in 1900 and passed away in 1974. During his last years, the greatest joy in his life was his grandchildren. He treated them in a much different way than he ever offered us. They called him “Grambad,” a name he very much enjoyed.
While he was not a man to express emotion, he was someone who exhibited great strength. He brought my brother, sister and me up unassisted revealing his great courage and determination. It was his lessons in facing struggles and getting on with things that has left the greatest impression on me.
Regardless of the upbringing you may have had, I believe it is important to respect your parents. We all make mistakes and some of them can be quite damaging. It is still my contention that based on our experiences, knowledge, and whatever pressures we are under, we are always doing the best we can.
If you have grievances against your father, forgive him. It does not serve you to hang on to bad memories.
Small boys become big men through the influence of big men who care about small boys.