If you believe that Fathers’ Day is another one of those Hallmarked duties recognized by a sterile routine that you concluded yesterday, you can stop reading now.
This post is intended to encourage you to embark on an ongoing dialogue with your father (or mother, sibling, child, or anyone else for that matter). Inspired by StoryCorps (see my Thanksgiving post about that here) and constrained by the fact that I lived in a different country than my father, we agreed to engage in a conversation through letters.
The dialogue took the form of questions and responses, but had all the features of intimate conversation: Sharing of memories, expression of fears and moments of elation, the articulation of aspirations and regrets, and the increased deepening of our bonds through insight into our respective perspectives.
Over two years, my father wrote of a remarkable life, including:
- His transition from bachelor to married man and father, all the more poignant coming later in life after numerous, social, years.
- The tribulations and successes of being a self-employed businessman, with an anxiety induced stomach ulcer for proof.
- His attitudes towards religion, in no small part influenced by his long-held resentment for being kicked painfully in the rear by the local priest for an offense he did not commit.
- His childhood memories, including watching German planes bomb Dover harbor during WWII, accidentally setting fire to a tree, and making a raft that failed spectacularly, with wet consequences.
- His Gypsy family, especially my Welsh great grandfather who literally ran away from home aged 14, joined the circus and married a traveling woman with whom he had 11 children (my gran being the tenth).
- His saddest and happiest moments, as well as regrets and those instances of pride, which need not feature here…
I responded in turn to my father’s inquiries, with my own candid intimacies, confessions and cathartic observations.
Every conversation is unique, and I cannot assert the outcomes of yours. However, I can, with some confidence, suggest you will find rejecting the surface simplicity of Fathers’ Day in favor of an ongoing, courageous conversation with your father to be the most rewarding and authentic act you will undertake for a long time. Start now.