My daughter always starts asking me two to three weeks before Father’s Day, if it is Father’s Day yet. She loves her dad, but she is thinking about our annual fishing trip to Slate Run Park. Slate Run is one of Columbus, Ohio’s Metro Parks, if you have not been, it is a great park that includes playgrounds, picnic areas, a 19th century working farm, fishing ponds, and so much more. We have been taking these trips since I collapsed at work and had to be rushed to the hospital just a month before Father’s Day five years ago. It was the quick actions of the rescue workers and nurses at work that made that first fishing trip possible.
This week I have also been reading blogs of other dads and what they think about Father’s Day. It runs the spectrum from a dad who hated Father’s Day until he was a dad, all the way to a dad who took the opportunity to blast dads who are not good dads. He stated that he will always be present and active in his kid’s lives.
The first dad I understand. His dad was an alcoholic and was not a part of his life. He said he cried for the first time a year after his dad died. Not for his dad, but because there would never be the opportunity for his dad to clean up his act and be the father he had always wanted his dad to be.
The second dad had a pretty clear cut definition of what he considered a good dad. He was a little younger than the first dad. I hope this young dad never has to endure the trials and tribulations that so many other people have to go through. One of the things he seemed to really dislike was dads who are absent from their kid’s lives. I thought about the parents during the great depression who could not feed their kids so they gave them to farmers. The kids would have to work the farm, but they would be cared for and fed. Many of those kids never saw their parents again.
The second dad also reminded me of a poll I read this week, and a person I met about seven years ago who made a real impact on me.
The poll said that over the last 20 to 30 years our politicians and the people themselves have become more and more polarized by politics. The poll stated that as Americans have become more and more polarized they have also increased their desire for compromise from our politicians. The poll also stated how Americans today define compromise; the other side giving to them most or all of what they themselves want. I always thought give and take was, give a little take a little; I never knew it was, you give me what I want and I take it.
That brings me to the person who impressed me so long ago. That person said, “I am very, very tolerant — except of intolerant people.” I asked how she defined intolerant people. She had a list of things. After she stated each item I asked her view on that subject. It turns out that if you share her views – you are tolerant and she is tolerant of you. If you do not share her views, you are intolerant, and she will not be tolerant of you.
Hmmm, I think my grandfather would disagree with her definition of tolerant. My grandfather was one of those “live and let live” kinds of people. I am most thankful that he was the driving force in my life. I had a father, and he was a dominant force in my life until I decided to ignore him. My dad was always there every time I did or tried anything. He was always the first to say anything too; “You’re gonna fail, you can’t do that, you will never amount to anything, you need me, you’d be nothing without me.” I think if the first daddy blogger and I could have traded dads he would have felt the same way now as he does about his dad. I do not have bad feelings for my dad things are what they are. My grandfather though, was a great dad to me, even if he did not spend enough time in my life to pass the second daddy blogger’s definition of a good dad. Little Pa (my maternal grandfather) and I always had quality time together. I always wanted more time with him, but was always thankful for what I got. He still influences me to this day, more than 35 years after his death.
I do have people who ask why I am not angry about my dad. Well, it is like I told my mother many years ago.
When my dad was a little boy and an adult asked him, “Son, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
I do not know what my dad answered, but I can tell you what he did not say. He did not say, “I am going to grow up and have a family of my own so I can physically and mentally abuse them. I am going to have a son that I will name after me, and then I will spend the rest of my life telling him how worthless he is and how he will never succeed at anything.”
I am pretty confident that is NOT how he answered that question.
When my dad died I went to his funeral and burial. Out of three sons and an ex-wife, I was the only one who went. Many people asked me why I went. I usually give a glib answer. But, the real reason I went? He was my dad. Yes, if I had been born 20 years later he probably would have done jail time for abuse. He never told me he was proud of me, he never told me I did a good job, and the only time he ever said he loved me was the one time I pointed out to him he had never told me he loved me. But he was my dad. Second daddy blogger would definitely say my dad was not a good dad.
I do not know what happened in the twenty years between when he was a little tyke and when he became a dad. But I wonder if the second daddy blogger would be as good a dad as he is now if he had had to go through the same trials and tribulations my dad went through for those twenty years. We will never know, but I doubt it.
I know many people who lost a parent, some through death, some through sicknesses (including drugs and alcohol), and some because that parent just left. Everyone has to come to terms with the loss of a parent in their own way.
There are parents that the second daddy blogger would definitely not approve of who have tried more, to do more, for their kids than some of those people who have “Parent of the Year” plaques on the wall. Sometimes parents (like those depression era parents who could not feed their kids) look at their children, and truly believe, the best chance their child has at a good life is if they are not in their child’s life.
I am one of those dads who second daddy blogger would say is not a good dad. There are also people who are always telling me I am a great dad. What I know is this. I am not the dad I want to be, I want to be a better dad to my daughter. A better dad as I define it, not as second daddy blogger or anyone else defines it. I know my daughter, and I know what I wish I could do for her.
But, you know what it really comes down to is that we all need to be a little more forgiving of others, we all need to compromise sometimes. Real compromise; meaning you give a little to the other side and the other side gives a little to you. And here’s a little secret for you, tolerance, real tolerance – is accepting people you do not agree with and allowing them to be the person they are even if you do not like it. Accepting people who agree with you, is not being tolerant; it is taking sides and lining up your team.
Now, I want to tell you about someone else who made an impact on me. I have a friend who wrote an open letter to her dad one Father’s Day. She never knew her father; he left his wife and two kids when my friend and her brother were quite young. But, I think she can teach us all something about forgiveness, compromise, and accepting others without making them measure up to our own definitions of what “good people” are.
She wrote that she did not know or understand why he left, but she knew he had his reasons. She wrote that she hoped he did not beat himself up over leaving his kids. She said her and her brother turned out pretty good. Then she said that she loved him and she hoped that where ever he is, he was happy and having a good life.
I know many people really do not get her attitude towards her dad. I have never asked her why she feels the way she does towards him, but I have a feeling that if I did ask her, she would say, “He’s my dad.”
So here is to all you dads out there, the good and the bad, and the ones who will never measure up to the standards of strangers. We love you dad, each and every one of us. Why? Because as my friend would say,
“He’s my dad.”