My family has never been one to celebrate holidays in excess. Don’t get me wrong, candles were lit on cakes, trees were covered in lights and ornaments, and I have more than a few beautiful memories from a host of big and small traditions surrounding special days. What I mean by that is that each individual day was important and celebrated in its own right. If a need was there, it was met. More often than not, special things happened for this reason or just because. The pressure was usually off when it came to gift giving/receiving or trying to create something elaborate and special just because the calendar had something ascribed to a certain day, because of this.
Yesterday may have been Father’s Day, but for whatever reason, I found myself contemplating, appreciating, and reflecting on the man, who along with my mom, has played the most defining role in shaping both my character and life. It probably has something to do with the fact that I’m in the midst of a move and going through things that trigger memories. Given our family’s holiday track record, I’m pretty sure he understands and doesn’t mind that this is taking place one day removed from the actual event.
When people ask me to describe my dad, I find it somewhat challenging. This isn’t because I lack things to say. Stories, memories, examples, and character traits abound. The problem comes in the choosing. My dad, you see, is a lot of things. A lot of things that overlap and intersect in hard to define and describe ways. He’s not a two-dimensional person. I’ve written about his love affair with our national pastime and how shaping it was in developing our relationship before, but that’s just one tiny layer. I’ve written about rural memories connected to deer season and loving the land, but again, that’s not all that he is. I could tell you that he is an incredibly hard working mechanic whose understanding of how to fix things/work with his hands is unparalleled. I could tell you of the books he reads, the questions he asks, his desire to be a life-long learner in every sense of the word. I could tell you of ways that just in the last year I’ve seen him wrestle with difficulty and stand up for what he knew was right regardless of the cost. I could tell you that if I had to choose just one word to describe him, it would hands down be integrity. I could tell you of the times my dad has been strong and firm, but I could tell you of just as many times that my dad has been gentle and tender. I could tell you of how safe I felt when he embraced me during difficult moments, but I could also tell you of how comforted I felt by the tears I’ve seen trickle down his face. If you hear one story or know one thing about my dad, it’s not enough to capture the whole. He’s not a stereotype. He’s not easily categorized. He, like I said earlier, is not one thing.
Earlier today, I found a 4 page hand written letter that this man wrote to me when I graduated high school. Rereading it today had the same effect it did as an eighteen year-old. Within the first few sentences my vision was blurred by tears that didn’t stop even after the last word was read. Because my dad knows me, all of me, he knew that to me words matter more than they did to most. His didn’t have to be eloquent, though his words were, they just had to be real. Real in a way that acknowledged both the good and bad, the places of both strength and weakness. Real in a way made me feel deeply loved, known, and valued.
It took me a long time to realize not everyone’s experience with their dad has been like mine. It took me a long time to realize and recognize how much I have taken for granted because he was so consistent in the way, like steel wool, he embodied what is both strong and what is gentle. When you live and see and breathe and hear this every day, there is a temptation to make the extraordinary commonplace. There is a temptation to overlook the depth of how incredible such a gift really is. I know my thoughts and feelings and thankfulness and words will always just scratch the surface. He showed me so much more than merely what a real man is, though the importance of this can never be overstated enough. He showed me with both sacrificial and kind actions and words what it meant to be loved imperfectly by a good father in a way that pointed me to the greatest Love of all.
How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory.
Happy Father’s Day yesterday, today, and everyday, Dad.