Saturday, June 16, 2007

My Father's Son

Father’s Day has come and gone 44 times in my life. For the past 21 years, I have been both father and son. I haven’t always been the best in either role, but I have always meant well. Good intentions, however, are never enough. It takes so much more and for me, that took a long time. It took my experiencing life from the other side of the father/son paradigm; it took maturity; it took patience and understanding; it took work. Today I have a very good relationship with my father and all three of my sons, but it wasn’t always that way…

In my pre-teen years, I remember doing all the things families do. We went camping and hiking, took vacations to Disneyland; summer evening bicycle rides downtown to the ice cream shop and Sunday morning rides to the donut shop were just a few of our family activities. There was an informal Fourth of July block party every year and a spontaneous game of stickball in the cul-de-sac wasn’t uncommon. Almost all of the kids went to the school just two blocks away. Every July the moms would harvest the fruit from the apricot trees left behind from the orchard that used to be our street and prepare it for drying. It was straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting - suburbia in the late sixties. It was only a short drive, but a million miles away from the upheaval surrounding us in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland.

By the time I started junior high school, the dust had begun to settle. Nixon was out, the war in Vietnam was finally over - the summer of love was but a distant memory. We were the generation without a cause, but still rebellious. In the tumult that came with my teenage years, it seemed that my father and I had less and less in common. In time and in order to justify my rebellion, I built a case that we just couldn’t get along - that he just didn’t understand me and moreover, didn’t care to. If he would just see things my way all would be well - my obstinacy never figured into the equation.

Throughout high school and beyond, we had a tenuous relationship that would at times be tolerable bordering on pleasant and at others be entirely antagonistic. He would do things to help me that he thought appropriate while I would counter with my own ideas of what I thought were right. His idea of supportiveness and mine were often diametrically opposed to one another. I had certain expectations that I believed were not being fulfilled and I extrapolated that to a deluded belief of malicious intent on his part. I was not seeing anything close to the whole picture; my self-centeredness completely clouded reality.

For a number of reasons, not the least of which are my own experiences with fatherhood, I have made a complete about-face in my perception of how things were. I know today (and have for sometime now) that my dad only had the best of intentions. I know today that he did what he thought was best and no matter how much I felt otherwise, he has been in my corner all along. I can’t even begin to list the great many instances that illustrate his devotion, his commitment and his love. No matter how far I went astray, he was always there to help me up and dust me off.

In this respect and many others, I am absolutely my father’s son. I have stood by my own children even when they wanted nothing to do with me. I have tried to help and had it blow up in my face. I have had to say no when I really wanted to say yes. I have tried to defend myself with logic when dealing with entirely illogical behavior. Throughout it all, I remain undaunted. I am still in the game and I’m committed to be there until the end of my days. It’s part of the job I willingly accepted so many years ago. It’s how fatherhood was modeled for me and although I can’t say I am the perfect father, I have been perfectly devoted to my children.

With Father’s Day now only a little more than an hour away, I find myself reflecting on my relationship with my dad over the years. I think he would agree that the last two or three years have been the best in a very long time… maybe ever. Curiously, that poor, misunderstood, maligned son that was the picture I had framed for myself is now shattered. I led a charmed childhood; I was given every opportunity and had the love and support of my mother and my father right up until this very moment. The past in not what it once was. Who says you can’t go back in time?

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. You did a good job. I love you.

Mike

16 comments:

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

wonderful reflections and wise and prudent evaluations....

always enjoy passing through here mike

the father son thing is a remarkable gift and worthy journey. enjoy the day

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Wonderful post...

Happy Father's Day to you and your dad.

And Hi Michele Sent Me.....

Dara said...

So you're saying it's never too late to have a happy childhood, right? :)
9 years ago was the last Father's Day for my Dad, I'm glad you still have them to share with yours and I enjoyed your piece. Happy Father's Day from Michele.

The Zombieslayer said...

I know today that he did what he thought was best and no matter how much I felt otherwise, he has been in my corner all along.

It's definitely not easy to see though. I didn't see it until I was in my 20s.

Happy Father's Day!

Moogie said...

In so many ways, your story is just the same as mine, only I was a daughter, and I am a mother to two daughters. Isn't if funny how when we grow up, we realize that perhaps our parents were not quite as stupid as we once believed. This is a most excellent post. You have put into words, what I have only thought about. Thank you.

Moogie said...

PS: I also grew up in an area with apricot orchards, though I was in San Jose.

Thumper said...

I'm not sure anyone ever really understand their parents until they've gone through it themselves. My poor dad was overwhelmed by all the estrogen in his house and hid in his den. I resented it then and understand it now. I just hope my son will figure it all out someday.

Here via Michele's again today :)

'B' said...

What a wonderful post...
I wish that my father was around (he died many years ago) to see his grandchildren, and that I could have a relationship with my own children the way I would like...
Here from Michele's today...
Bernie

Belizegial said...

Happy Father's Day Mike. Great tribute to your dad.

Sunday blessings,
Enid

kenju said...

I hope he gets to read this, Mike. He will really appreciate it, I know. We always told our kids that whatever decisions we made concerning them, we did out of conviction that it was the best thing for them (whether they thought so or not). I think, nbow that 2 of them are parents, they understand and appreciate that.

~Cathy~ said...

Happy Father's Day to you AND your father... what a touching tribute to him.

Michele sent me...

mckay said...

checking in, and wishing you all the best.
thanks for sharing this post. father's day is a complicated one for me so i won't dabble because i don't know what the hell i think about it all.

i always enjoy soaking in the thoughts you share.

mck.

wordnerd said...

What an incredible tribute. I hope you share this with your dad. It's never too late to let them know they did a great job. And I'm letting you know that it sounds to me like you did a fine job yourself. Happy (belated) Father's Day to you, too!

Snaggle Tooth said...

I hope you all had a great Dad's Day!

I sure miss having my Dad to call, so I called my son-in-laws n daughters who all have new infants this year.

I enjoyed your rebellious tale of youth. Funny how we all think parents are wrong until we take our turn at it!

Have a good week, too!

Judy Thomas said...

What a great tribute to your dad. I always find it so amazing how we, as kids, really only understand our parents when we become parents ourselves. I know your father cried when he read that... I would have if the same had been written about me. BTW... Michelle sent me :-)

Michele said...

Another wonderful post. Tell me Mike, why am I suddenly addicted to your blog? Perhaps, it is because I truly appreciate what a terrific writer you are. Yes, that must be it.

Or.....

p.s. Michele also sent me, and yes, I do whatever she says.