Father’s Day is a special day, an important day, even a peculiar day. To be honest, it is a day that you half-think men invented in order to make doubly-sure we get our due honor for the small sacrifices we make. I say “small” because when fathers get up and go to work, words such as “sacrifice” don’t usually come to mind. No, we think of tasks, meetings, and deadlines, primarily. And yet, when heading out the door and the four year old little boy asks if his shoes are on the correct foot, we stop because we know we are on holy ground. It is in that split second that we fathers stop and know that whatever lies ahead for the day just simply isn’t as important as this little one speaking to us. Sure, the shoe being on the right foot is peanuts compared to everything in the headlines. But to the preschooler, it’ll make the difference between whether he walks or skips in the driveway. "Of course he needs to skip”, we say to ourselves. Of course he does. Whatever the origin of Father’s Day, it is a day that we stop, and if possible, remember who our fathers are (or were) and what they really mean to us.
As a 36 year old man, I can tell you that more than a few of my friends fathers have died. When talking with my friends about our fathers, we exchange good and not-so-good stories. We tell the bad stories too because none of us were born to perfect people and the highlight reel, as fun as it is, isn't all there was. Before we get into the whens, the hows, and the whys surrounding the men we miss we ask one question every single time and without fail. It is the question that rocks us to the core.
The question is: “Did you have a good relationship with your dad?” This is what we men, who work hard, have wives, children, and pay bills ask each other.
The conversations are often short and pungent (sometimes peaty). When we speak of our fathers, we speak with fewer words because losing your father is unlike anything else. To speak of the man who raised you who was fraught with holes and simultaneously worea red “S” on his chest is to be speaking of something holy. Nobody ever envisions sitting at the kitchen table at 5:18 am on a Tuesday morning in June, thinking about the missing man. Dads are intended to be immortal, you know.
I’m not sure why it is, but when I think of my father this year, I feel like I’m missing more than a father. It is like I’m missing a friend. I miss his laugh. I miss his heavy-starched dress shirts. I miss his cologne. I really miss his handwriting. God, his handwriting was just beautiful. Such straight lines and curves and spacing. There was real thoughtfulness care, and precision. It as though he knew that his handwriting, though usually to someone else, was actually saying something about himself. His handwriting spoke of his unhurried character. It spoke of a certain confidence in the subject at hand. More than anything, his handwriting spoke of the worth of the other. After all, why make life harder on someone else with chicken scratch?