This Sunday is Father’s Day. In some cultures, the word ‘Father’ refers to a god. For most people, the term is used for a biological parent, but it’s not necessarily the man that beget you who becomes your mentor in life, so ‘father’ can become whoever fits the role…it’s all o.k.
My father passed on about 14 years ago. Thinking about him, I chuckle. We couldn’t have been more different when I was growing up. He was a Scorpio, I was a Sag (with a Scorpio rising – oh boy!). He would say ‘it’s partly cloudy’ and I would say ‘it’s partly sunny’. My father was not a risk taker; I jumped off cliffs. My parents had four children in total: the older three were uber-obedient and conservative as were my parents. I was their wild child (an understatement). I never did what my parents really wanted me to do – I despised conformity, boredom, mediocrity, uniformity…I’ve always aspired to greatness (and in my many years did achieve much greatness indeed).
In my later 20s, my father and I grew to understand one another and became very good friends. He respected my resolve, independence, strongmindedness, stubbornness, and intelligence. He realized that I knew where I wanted to go and the vision I saw for my future. We would sit for hours and have long conversations about politics, religion, travel and of course – the weather. Or, we would just read for hours on end in silent comraderie while listening to WPAT easy listening radio. When my father became ill and eventually had to have his leg amputated just below the groin at an age of over 70 years, it broke my heart, because I knew this tall ex-detective/newsman’s ego would be bruised to be physically maimed. So, I took my golden retriever (whom he loved) into a sound studio and recorded her on tape crunching on fortune cookies and had the technician loop the audio for an hour. When I went to the hospital to see him, I said ‘here, put these headphones on’. At first, he didn’t get it, but then a huge smile broke on his face and he started to laugh until he began to cry because he knew what it was. My mother said he listened to that recording whenever his physical therapy got tough or he was in ‘phantom’ pain as so many amputees are from time to time. The man was so stubborn, he learned to walk with a prosthetic leg without a cane for years until a few months before he died.
I miss my father. I’ve done so much with my life in the years after he passed. Medical school, travels, adventures, misadventures…I know he is proud of me. My mother has said that before he died, he told her that out of the 4 children, he was proudest of me. Why? I never took money from him. I never allowed him to buy me a car. I never asked him for anything, nor did I ever burden him with my personal affairs. I was responsible for my own life. I was a success. I was his only child to attend grad school, win international awards, lecture internationally…achieve greatness. I told my mother that I am who I am today because although we thought we were so different, my father and I were really so much alike. All the ethics he valued, he instilled in me…integrity, truth, honesty, justice. In remembering my father today, I will leave you with this treat…The poet, Khalil Gibran, in his poem, The Prophet, had this to say on children:
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts, For they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies but not their souls, For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. The archer see the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with his might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the Archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”
I miss my father….I was his wild child, but I was his love child, his favorite child, his smartest, and most successful. If he were here this weekend, I’d take him to lunch and argue with him over the check until he’d have to let me pay. If your father (no matter who you consider that man to be) is still around, treat him to something nice this weekend, or at least let him know how much he means to you. If you’re a parent and your children have grown up to be decent human beings, be proud that arrow has gone pretty swift and far. If not and that arrow has turned out to be a flop, just give your shoulders a shrug and know you did your best…you can’t control them.