I am writing this for Father's Day, but not because it's Father's Day. It's not something I feel I have to do. It's something I want to do.
I'm writing it because Father's Day simply reminded me of what it has been like for me to be a father. I've said before that any good that I accomplished as a father is not due to my own abilities. If I have ever been good as a father, it is only because of the quality of my children. I could not have asked for two better daughters than the two I have. The women they have become are far beyond what I would have been able to imagine on my own. I am forever grateful that they were given into my care.
I always think of my own father at this time. Actually, I think of him quite often. I have so many questions for him. My father killed himself when I was 15, and my ability to get any answers was effectively stifled. I would have wanted to know what it was like for him when he first became a father. Mostly I would have liked for my daughters to have known him.
When I look back at my life with my father I have to acknowledge that despite all of his faults, he was, ultimately, a good father to me. In saying that I have to qualify it with the fact that I am the youngest of six children, and my siblings experiences with my father were very different than mine.
My father was an alcoholic. The last time I saw him he was drunk. And yet, despite this, to me he was a good father. My memories of life with him were generally positive. He was a firm disciplinarian which I can attest to having felt the thickness of the calluses on his hands when he spanked me on my bare backside. I also have to admit that I earned every spanking I got. The other times when I had his attention were when he played catch with me, or showed me what he was working on in the garage whether it was a car or carpentry project. I remember distinctly one time when he was making some bookends for my sister Diane, and he asked my opinion on how the pieces of wood looked when arranged in a certain way. "I like them that way." I said. He looked at me and smiled and said, "Ok. Then that's the way I'll do it." In that one moment of my childhood I felt completely valued by him.
I have to say though, that despite how his life ended, he was a good father to me, and I believe this is due in large part to my older siblings. Their life with my father was very different than mine. Their experiences with his alcoholism and controlling personality were far more direct, and frequent, than mine ever were. I believe very firmly that my mother, my brothers and my sisters taught him to be a good father. They took upon themselves all the pain in their relationships with him, and in effect, extended a Grace that covered me before I was even born. They protected me so that I might have the good father that they missed. They made him a good father for me.
And even beyond that, when I went to live at different times with my brother Bill, and later with my sister Diane, they became the parents I needed which is a debt I can never adequately repay, and one they would never ask me to.
For this I will always be grateful to all of them.
In addition to all this I learned that God directly replaced my father's presence with His own when I finally chose to listen to Him. This was the single most important choice I have made in my life, and I have never regretted it.
Now I look at my own daughters, and I will never be able to express how grateful I am to be their father. With all of the pain and sorrow inflicted upon them in their lives they still choose to love me. And again that Grace is extended to me, and it makes my life more than worth it.
I am blessed beyond measure.
So, on Father's Day, the only gift I will ever want is to know that my children actually want to be near me. I could ask for nothing better, nor desire anything more.
To my daughters, Jennifer and Kaytie, thank you for letting me be your father.
©Dan Bode 2014