Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

As I sit writing this fine stormy morning with lightning flashing and thunder sounding about me, I am at peace. Today is Father's Day and it is a day from which I derive great solace because being a father has been a full-time occupation for me since my son was born in 1986, but much more urgently applied since my wife passed away in 1995. It is a mantle I wear with honor and, while we don't discuss it much between ourselves, it is my most treasured job. Now that my son has passed from teenager to college student and about to undertake his senior year at my alma mater, I must admit that I am a lot less the center of his attention. Many of the things that interested me when he was a mere tyke still do. These include Scouting, music, theatre, animation and action films, Judaism, and an appreciation for the fairer sex. I hope that many of my values have been instilled in him, but as he is now 22, most of that instruction has either taken or not. I have to stand back and revel in the wonders that he still has to unveil in life. A father can relive his life vicariously through his child, but the journey is like that of a car where you are a mere passenger and no longer in control of the vehicle. As any father, I wish the best for my child and pray that he will live a long and outstanding life. The saddest thing for me is to read or hear about a parent having to bury his child. In his books "Big Russ and Me" and "The Wisdom of Our Fathers," the late Tim Russert made a case for the tireless parent who gives his all in order to provide for his family. Bill Cosby talked at length about what we do in "Fatherhood." To be a father is easy. To be a good father is difficult. Sometimes the lessons we need to teach are painful to both parent and child. Yet, it is a wise parent who knows what has to be done in order to teach and secure his child's way in the world through these lessons. My joy is to see young fathers experiencing the trying relationship for themselves. Eventually it kicks in. This is a limited run. The time a parent spends with a child is well spent, but it is far too short before they no longer have the desire to be with a parent, choosing instead to be with their own peer group in social outings. But isn't that what we most want? To make them upstanding and independent creatures so that they won't have to rely on us for everything? Like it or not, we won't always be able to be there for them, nor they for their children. It is the great continuum as we move on and they take our place. To be a father is to know both joy and pain. It is a road that we fathers happily tread and one, we hope, our sons will embark upon too. My father, both my grandfathers and my maternal great-grandfather have passed on. One day I, too, shall be gone, but the promise that one or more will carry on in my stead gives me pause and lifts me up today and through all of my Fathers Days to come.

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