I’ve read quite a few blogs in the past weeks leading up to Father’s Day about how dads deserve to be celebrated, but often the focus is on chastising them for not being better fathers. It seems we don’t give them the same grace and feelings of goodwill extended to moms on Mother’s Day. I found myself wondering if this was really true, and I decided on some level to “watch and see”, look at the evidence around me (in a decidedly unscientific data-gathering way.)
1. There were still plenty of Father’s Day cards remaining at several stores I visited, even as late as Saturday night.
2. No barrage of ads from restaurants offering “Father’s Day Brunch” like there always seem to be for the moms.
3. Since it always falls on a Sunday, there is some mention of the day in church, right? Well, this morning it was only briefly mentioned, and only in connection with its convergence with the World Cup.
4. Reading my Facebook news feed revealed everything from “things that seemed like a good idea at the time…” to heartfelt declarations of love accompanying pictures of dear dad, to expressions of gratitude for husbands for the way they fathered (with an unspoken comparison to their own father that there were no words for.)
5. Apparently some places DO celebrate dads and their love for all things manly: Cabela’s was quite crowded with men and their families today, they even had tractors in the parking lot for dads to test drive. I could hear Tim Allen in my head, grunting his approval.
6. Sadly, Father’s Day presents for some an opportunity to demonstrate their self-righteous judgements against “those people”; the current target for discrimination – gays. I drove away from Cabela’s and church feeling pretty good about the day, until my eyes were drawn to a huge yellow banner being held up by two people standing in front of a church on the busiest street corner. The sign read : Thank your DAD today for not being GAY. What?!
I sadly had my own self-righteous moment as I judged the people who believed it was a good idea to stand there, and while Katie joined me in my outcry, she also pointed out that we were upset but not doing anything about it…if her brothers Matt and Tim had been with us, they would have gone to engage them in conversation. Wow…truth.
So, what does all of this “data” say about Father’s Day? I don’t know, certainly nothing that feels definitive and solid. To me it feels more like a lot of tension, the reality that things are and are not as they should be, that there are good dads and not so good, that we love well and we do not. Tension is a hard thing, because it forces us to feel the pull between opposing forces, we can’t simply pick one side or the other, make things black and white. And I would like to do that on Father’s Day. I would like to hold only the harm that I received at the hands of my father, because then I don’t have to feel the heartbreaking ache of why those moments had to exist alongside moments of goodness and delight.
It took me only an hour after hearing a message where I was reminded to listen to my judgements and criticisms and consider what they were saying about me, to begin judging and criticizing the people who were judging and criticizing with their big yellow banner.
The truth is, I know what really bothered me on a personal level about that sign, and it was something much bigger than the word GAY. “Thank your DAD.” Everything in me wants to scream, “Hell no!” Until I allow myself to settle, to behold…behold defined as the emergence of the meditative mind, holding, seeing, paying attention. Thank your dad. That requires the tension of holding ALL of my experiences of my father.
Thank you, dad for being an essential part of my life and birth, for providing food and clothing and shelter and my own car to drive (even if it was a hideous shade of green.) Thank you for delighting in my efforts as I practiced playing the piano and singing for countless hours – your smiles were powerful motivation. Thank you for paying to provide me an excellent education – something my son is teaching me is not available to many more than I would have thought. Thank you for giving me opportunities to do hard things growing up, things I wouldn’t have dared try on my own. I can still remember the thrill of learning to clutch and engage the gears on the tractor, feel the cold wind stinging my face as I pressed the gas on the snowmobile. Thank you for giving your blessing on my marriage to Chris. I know many worried because we were young, because he was Baptist…and you still said, “Yes…I know you will take good care of her.” Thank you for all the yards you have helped landscape as we moved around the country, for the house projects that are still standing, a reminder that you have always seemed most comfortable communicating your love for others through helpful projects. Finally, thank you for your honesty – I’ve invited you to a different conversation, a different relationship, one that would require something different from you, and you haven’t pretended to be something you’re not right now.
Right now my heart is full – full of gratitude for the fact that my children are loved well by an imperfect AND really great dad, of empathy for many of my sisters and brothers whose stories of harm from their own fathers I also have held, of longing for what is broken in my relationship with my own father to be redeemed, and finally, rest, knowing I am beloved by my Father.