In May I wrote about positive ways to navigate Mother's Day if your mom had passed on. Father's Day is the matching holiday that can bring bittersweet reminders from Hallmark commercials to Father's Day movies. To bring up the "happy" and deal with the "sad," I start by remembering the gifts my dad gave me. I'm not speaking of material possessions, but rather qualities I inherited or absorbed by simply being around him.
My dad was from a large family of ten children. Most weekends, especially in summer, brothers and sisters would visit each other,. I remember the park benches that sat on the corner around my grandfather's house under the shade of tall elms. My aunts would bring food--after all, we were Italian--and my grandfather would pour the wine. I would be spending time with my cousins. Even when we all didn't gather at my grandfather's house, we'd visit a nearby aunt or uncle for an evening chat session. The main quality I absorbed from my dad was the loyalty he felt toward his brothers and sisters, the joy in their company, the need to stay in touch. So loyalty and the importance of family are at the top of my gift lists.
My father was generous. He and my mom grew up during the Depression and knew what life was like when a family had to stretch what it had to survive. He didn't want others to suffer that way. He and my uncle grew corn. Every summer they'd give lots of it away to anyone who wanted or needed it. When my husband and I were first married, on each of our visits to my childhood home, my dad would send home with us anything he thought we'd need, from canned goods to garden chairs.
My dad was artistic. He worked with wood, making beautiful plant stands and benches. He taught himself how to play the organ and, after he retired, began painting in watercolors and acrylics. We have his paintings hanging in my office and the kitchen. His plant stands remind me of the care he took with each piece. I learned from my dad that I could learn or begin something new, whatever my age. I also learned to search for the creative spirit inside myself that could bring me fulfillment.
I don't know if I ever heard the words "I love you" from my dad. That was a different time when men didn't feel comfortable expressing affection. But after he passed on, I realized I didn't need the words. I felt his love each day in the way he provided for his family, worried about me, sent me a card on Valentine's Day. Most of all, I remember how when I was sick and home from school, we'd build model ships together or play blackjack. My dad was a man of few words, but as I grew older I could read the meaning and affection between the words.
So on this Father's Day, if you miss your dad, think about the intangible gifts he gave you and use them to make the world a better place.
Happy Father's Day, Daddy.
©2012 Karen Rose Smith
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