At my cousin’s family ward in New Jersey this morning, I found myself envying the part-to-play that belongs to little kids on Father’s Day. You elbow your way to the front of the stand in sacrament meeting so you can wave to him, add your own warbley strain to the off-key chorus of “My Daddy is My Favorite Pal,” and then during Primary, you color a cut-out tie that your Dad will sport proudly for twenty minutes (or, if you are MY DAD, twenty years. Every Father’s day his now-giant paper tie makes its annual appearance in the Buffalo Ward, filling his 26, 24, 22, 20, and 17-year-old kids’ hearts with pride. I love you for that, Dad).
I envied the kids today because Father’s Day gets harder as you get older, as you learn to love your Dad for new, grown-up things. He became your friend somewhere in between your last year in college and your first grown-up paycheck. You realized that he is just a regular guy who faces both his own troubles and those of his wife and kids. He meets these trials with a smile on his face that is sometimes pretended, but most times summoned up from the bottom of his loyal, brave, faithful, family-man heart. It’s hard work, being a grown-up dad. Thanks for all your hard work, my Dad. (Which work is easier, now that it’s all over: keeping 5 adult kids on track or waking up at 3 am to feed and lull 5 babies to sleep for about 10 years straight? I’m curious.)
So what do you do on Father’s Day when a paper tie ceases to convey the fullness of your affection for him and the role he plays in your life? Some people resort to silk ties, some people to a new set of tools. I’ve tried these gifts in the past, only to see Dad’s interest in them fade from his face almost as quickly as he opens the gift bag* (my Dad’s ridiculously honest face hides absolutely NONE of his emotions, for better or worse). I’ve gotten closer to the mark for a few years with books for presents. Those are more up my Dad’s alley, mostly they because they represent ideas, idols, or goals to set. That right there is speaking my Dad’s language.
But if you choose the wrong book, heaven help you. You might as well have given him that “One Free Chore” coupon you gave him when you were 10 that you obnoxiously refused to honor three months after its bestowal.
(In case you’re wondering, siblings, in terms of the types of books you are thinking of buying for him, David McCullough is less than Mitch Albom is less than C. S. Lewis is less than Eugene England.)
|Ok he's not exactly smiling at this MOMENT, but this was that night. |
There's Grandpa, Wee, Dad, and the Metropolitan's sweet water fountain entry.
|Sweet Dad smile! Cheesy rest of us smile.|
So. How to bring that smile back when 4/6ths of “his people” live in states other than his? Dad, this is what I’d like to tell you today: the only thing I can do that I think makes you smile is live my life with daring, cunning, faith, and love. I’m three semesters away from my Master’s, I live in a beautiful and challenging city, and I plan on skipping back to the West the second I’m done. I love our church, I love and worry about our family every day, and I take extremely frugal but fabulous vacations like you’ve taught me, so that I make good memories but don’t go bankrupt in the process. Most days I credit you with the part of me that is driven to succeed, to question things, to be devoted wholeheartedly to those I love. For those qualities and many more instilled in me by you and by our beautiful, graceful mother, I thank you. Happy Father’s Day, Eric. I’m doing my best out here, thanks for all your support. I love you.
Happy Father’s Day to everyone who has ever been a father, who wants to be a father someday, or who today feels their heart well up with gratitude for their own father or the father of their children.
* Talking to my Dad tonight I was informed that my sister did in fact give him a tie this year, about which he remarked, "Well, you do always gotta have these things!"