At this time of year, we always see the TV commercials advising the perfect gift for Father’s Day.
It is interesting that as the year’s pass by the gifts matter so much less, and it is the times long past that we crave to recapture, even if for just a day.
Yet we are bombarded with advertising as if material things could ever replace the gifts of the heart. In addition, dads everywhere get asked, ‘What do you want for Father’s Day?’, as if a gift is really what any of us want deep down inside our heart of hearts.
You see, being a dad is not something that starts with instructions.
Those childbirth classes don’t focus much on the ‘this is what your life is now going to be’, as they teach the mothers to use breathing techniques to soften the pains of labor, never mentioning how often in your life going forward you will have your breath taken from you by the awe of watching your own offspring do so many things, even the most commonplace things, that bring joy to your heart.
They don’t mention how for the rest of your heartbeats the reason for your … being … will consume your daily thoughts, even as they become older than you were when you first saw them in the hospital.
They don’t teach you how caring can run so deep it has no bottom, nor that joy can never be confined or restrained when it comes to the happiness that will be your daily gift.
Some of us didn’t have a dad in the house. Some of us had moms who worked hard to provide and to fill a dual role, when needed. We learned by watching others and trying to discard the acts we hoped we would never do, while seeking to hoard the good things we saw done, so that one day we could hope to be good fathers.
Where I grew up, many homes did not have a dad and in some that did, at least from the outsiders’ view, it would have been better if they didn’t have one. But there were a few who provided a young kid with examples of what it meant to be a caring, loving father, so I absorbed what I could from the life’s lessons offered to us all.
None of us are perfect — we know that, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I had played my hand better here and there.
There was no learner’s manual, so stumbling along and making a lot up as I went along opened me up to both failures and successes.
As our kids grew, we knew that every step we took left a mark — plus or minus — and every day mattered. Each day was filled with quick decisions, driven by an underlying love and desire that the best choices could be made for our growing children. In the end, we all pray that the scales are tilted in favor of having been good fathers and having done much more good than harm along the way.
From the day you first hold your new child until you take your last breath, the caring for your children is a force that both drives your actions and fills your heart. You know from day one that any fool can be a father, but you have to work hard to be a dad. You can work hard all your life and have many accomplishments, and when you retire people will say, ‘he used to be this, or he used to be that’, but until your dying day you will always be a dad!
So, as I started to write this, my mind began to drift back to the first moment I became a dad, almost 35 years ago.
How blessed I was, and how blessed I was to be again, three more times with two boys and twin girls, that each brought unbounded love, joy, frustrations, exhilarations, and a panoply of emotions over the years.
For me, what is the most frustrating, even to this day, is there are two things I and most dads would love to have, and neither are possible.
First, we would love to be able to have just one more of those crazy-rushed-chaotic mornings with everyone getting off to school, or just one more sideline morning coaching them in soccer, or being able to officiate one more swim meet, or even one of those always funny dinner tables- never failing to have laughs from deep within that added the spice to our meals. Just to experience another day of my smiling kids, beaming after a race well swum, a soccer game well played; a first girlfriend or boyfriend, or the thrill of getting that college acceptance in the mail would be worth every material possession.
Secondly, it would be to have the power to ease every pain and fix every problem, then and now. This is a tough one, even knowing it could never be. Over time, you begin to realize that it is both the highs and the lows that have enabled you to be a dad. You discover that sometimes it is much more important for you just to be around when needed, as you are often much more needed on the bad days.
Yes, those too fill your heart with emotion and looking back also had great importance in building the adults now who once gave you the title Dad.
So for this coming Father’s Day, I write this for my kids, as my gift to them, so they can be reminded again of how much I love them and how much I care for them.
For those days on which I stumbled and was not at the top of my game, I regret them deeply, but for the moments, days and years I helped to lift you up and brought sunshine to your lives- those days define my life.
You are the world to me, and my real gift will come in seeing you, one day, know how I feel through your own experiences; the immeasurable joys of being a parent.
I love you guys!
Ed H. Moore resides in Tallahassee, Florida, where he is perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder.