Another Father's Day came and went Sunday, and I just couldn't help feeling a pang of guilt. I didn't get my dad anything. I didn't even send a card to his mailbox in rural Missouri.
My brother got my father a pair of bolt-cutters and some type of socket set for the holiday, thereby "whupping my ass once again" in the gift department, as he so colorfully puts it.
It seems as though I've been losing that competition for years -- my brother always gets my mechanically-inclined dad some type of practical, manly tool, while I usually end up getting my bookworm father a novel of some sort, which is much less useful around the house.
I just don't feel that my failure to buy a Tom Clancy book at Barnes & Noble and ship it home was at the root of my guilt last Sunday.
I called my father on Father's Day, and we had a fairly ordinary conversation.
"Work's good -- busy."
"That's good, your brother starts work tomorrow."
"That's good, hope he likes it."
"Well, it's a job, and the boss said they might be working up to 50, 60 hours this week. How's the weather there?
"Oh, not too bad, it was hot until the thunderstorms today."
"It's pretty cool, here."
Ok, so that's a very stripped down version of the conversation we had. My father and I aren't quite that boring, but I think you can catch my drift. Not a lot was said.
This, I think, is why I felt guilty or unfulfilled, or something after hanging up with my dad.
Yeah, sure, Father's Day is sort of an arbitrary holiday, celebrated on some picked-out-of-a-hat date. But it presents a good excuse for you to tell your father (or father-figure) what, exactly, he means to you.
My failure to do this is the root of my guilt. My father and I just had one of our blander conversations on Father's Day. I should have told him why I was proud to call him my father, I desperately wanted to get it out, but like a lot of families, we don't normally operate under the touchy-feely, open-door emotions policy too much.
Instead of just wishing him a "Happy Father's Day," I could have told him how much our time as father and son has meant to me. I could have asked him if the times that he remembers as important in our relationship are the same ones that I do.
I could have mentioned those nights when I was little, when he let me stay up late and listen while he and his buddies held forth on all manner of politics and history and how much those meant to me.
I could have mentioned the way he included me in those discussions, with patience, and not patronization. Never patronizing, Dad always assumes his sons are smart enough to handle the facts.
Instead of talking about the weather, I should have told him how much I cherish those hot summer nights when we sat on the patio at my dad's house, stared out over the fields while we listened to Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion come out of his car radio while barbecued on the grill.
I could have thanked him for teaching me to relish my little (population 450) hometown and it's idiosyncrasies, and I could have told him that, because of him, I'll never forget where I'm from.
I could have thanked him for (almost) never yelling or punishing when my brother or I screwed up, trying instead to reason with his teenage sons.
I could have thanked him for just being my father, and a damn good one.
But I didn't. I said "Happy Father's Day" and hung up.
I guess there's always next year.Comments powered by Disqus
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