Father’s day has a different meaning depending on your relationship with your father. When you were a kid, it was the day you made a card, or played a game of catch while the grill sizzled or maybe you followed your dad around while others left him alone for the day.
Quite possibly your relationship with your father was less than wonderful and he never paid attention to you. He may have been violent or withdrawn.
Or, he may have died before you got to know him.
Maybe you never met him.
If he is no longer alive and you wonder, what would he say to you if he saw how you are progressing in life, forever changing and learning. Would he approve of you singing on street corners, working in a cubicle or jumping out of planes, painting the tops of water towers? Remember, your Dad was young once and the music moved his soul, just as it dances within yours.
Not too long ago, I overheard a conversation between a father and his daughter in the common living room of a nursing home.
The voices were loud. The words sharp with pained edges. It lasted only a few minutes. The daughter, it seemed, had decided to confront her father with an apology. By the sound of those raised voices, it was one he didn’t want any part of. He paced, agitated, in that living room, surrounded by multiple lazy boy chairs, a fish tank as a wide screen TV whispered in the background.
Voices rose and fell. The daughter stepped forward and reached out. In hushed tones, she asked for forgiveness to a wrong, a wrong only they were privy to.
Her father stopped and stared past her through the picture window and onto the road beyond. For a few seconds the passing cars caught his attention.
Another man was with them acting as a go-between. He touched the older man’s shoulders and asked him, to hear her out. Then he turned and asked the daughter if she understood that her words might not give her the peace she seemed to want.
The dad turned away from his daughter. He flattened down his hair, rubbed his beard, then turned to face her. With a shaky voice he announced loudly, “ I accept your apology, as it means so much to you that I do.” He asked stiffly. “Are we done here?”
She reached out to him, his little girl in a grown woman’s body and asked for a hug.
He took a step back and refused with a curt shake of his head. “That I can’t give you!”
The mediator sighed heavily and asked the Dad, “If you would, at least, shake her hand?” The old man looked up; he clasped his hands together and rocked slightly, then with great internal trepidation, agreed.
His daughter clasped his hand with tears in her eyes. He returned her stare with irritated anger flashing from his eyes. His hand shook as he stood in front of her, then abruptly he announced it was time for her to go.
They left quickly. I grabbed at the lull to instantly head to the restroom. When I came out, he was there waiting for me.
He asked how I was feeling. I smiled sadly, and he touched my hand, leaned in close and placed his forehead against mine. Tears welled up in his eyes; “Remember” he said, “That you are loved. You were made with love. Brought into this world with love, and have been loved more than words can say. Do you understand?” He asked.
I nodded, tired and depressed. The last few days had been spent holding my mother’s hand while she slipped away. At this point, his words had me on the verge of tears.
Softly he said, “Just know that you are loved, and I do forgive you.” He held my shoulders and looked into my eyes. “Now, I will accept that hug from you.”
He pulled me close and gave me a hug only a father can give. It was full of love. It felt like my Dad was there, watching and talking through this Dad. I saw my father’s eyes in his.
This Dad, whose life was nearing the end, had told me that he never knew his own biological father. His Dad was his step-dad, whom he loved and emulated his entire life.
“Remember,” he whispered in my ear. “I love you.”
He loosened his hug and moved back a step. He looked into my eyes and smiled. His eyes were far away. His hand shook. He felt weak and yet, very strong. “My child.” He whispered. “I loved you before you were born.” Tears rolled down his cheeks.
I looked towards the door where I could see his daughter’s car pulling out of the parking lot.
He hugged me again and whispered in my ear. “Just know that you are loved. I do forgive you and you can always have a hug. You are loved! Remember, that you have always been loved! And you were wanted! You are a good person. You try your best, and I am so proud of you!”
He pulled back, held my shoulders again and looked deep into my eyes. “I am so proud! You are loved. You are wonderful. All you do is noticed! I see you! I see you!” He let out a long shaky breath. “I do forgive you,… and you can always have a hug! Remember, no one loves you more than your Dad!”