Sunday, June 20, 2010

Holiday Ambivalence

[[switching to first person]] I have always had an ambivalence to many holidays. The only two that seem to mean much to me are Memorial Day and July 4th. Probably July 4th is the most important to me because I love this country, warts and all, and can appreciate what significance the day means in history and for me as a citizen. If you are of the religious persuasion to celebrate Easter and Christmas and even Thanksgiving, which has its roots in Christianity, the thing or reasons those holidays are celebrated should be celebrated every day. President's Day is sort of a non-entity. I can appreciate the sentiment of Martin Luther King Day. Labor Day doesn't mean anything when so many people still have to labor on that day. Then we get to the pseudo-holidays: Mother's Day, Father's Day, Valentine's Day and others like it. The cynic in me simply believes these days were invented for Hallmark and other card-making companies. So today is Father's Day. What does it mean to me?

First, my own father has been gone now longer than he was alive. He died as the result of a car accident 44 years ago. I was ten at the time. He was a complex man who was a hero in World War II but pretty much failed at life after that. His death was probably a mercy killing. Growing up without a dad left Father's Day kind of empty. His hole in my life has been deep but I have long since worked that out with poems, family genealogy and his war medals that I keep and are my most prized possessions. But on Father's Day, there was nothing to celebrate.

Then I became a father myself. I have two wonderful children. They weren't planned well as one is 31 and the other is 14. Oops. But a father couldn't ask for better children. My 31 year old son was my buddy and there are a lifetime of memories that we share. During his early years, I worked the graveyard shift which left us a lot of leeway to enjoy each other during the day. And we did. We share this passion for baseball that is one of those bonds that lasts a lifetime. We share the same favorite team with the same kind of passion. He has a good heart and avoided most serious troubles that sons can get into. He's a good man and you can't ask for much more than that.

My daughter, as with most dads, is the twinkle in my eye. She has the ability to make me melt into a puddle of goo whenever she is around. She's fourteen now and at an age when most parents would start to worry about life choices and the road ahead. But she has such a good attitude about life that much trouble seems unlikely. Her favorite shirt seems to say it all: "Today is going to be incredible." As long as she keeps that life outlook, she'll be okay.

But I don't need Father's Day to celebrate and be celebrated. If you were raised right, being a father has no other option but to love and be loved as the most natural thing in the world. It's a year long and year by year wonder of closeness and celebration. I have not spared my children any of the love I have in my heart and it has been received and returned in a variety of ways with consistency. So why would I need a Father's Day? I don't.

Most fathers, I assume, are like me. We want to reach out and give to our children. We are uncomfortable when that role is reversed. I would be quite content to never get a card or a gift from either of my two. It seems unnatural. Although I do love how my daughter scribbles and doodles all over the envelopes that seem to be even more special than the card itself. I don't need gifts from my children. It's not that I don't appreciate the thoughts behind them, I do. But both my children should understand that their lives alone are the greatest two gifts I have ever received. Nothing could top that and nothing else is required. When I close my eyes every day and picture them each and every day, it becomes Father's Day. Every day they grace this world is all the gift I need.

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