Because Father’s Day weekend is upon us, I’d like to offer a gentle but firm reminder to those who are still fortunate enough to have their dad around.
Though it saddens me to say this, Father’s Day 2017 may be the last year you will have the opportunity to bless your dad.
Harsh. I know. But, I’ve learned that we can never take for granted the time we have been given to spend with those we love—including our dads; because one day you will either say, “I wish I had.” or you will say, “I’m so glad I did.”
I remember Father’s Day weekend 2014 well. My dad hadn’t been feeling well for several weeks with what we thought was just a nasty intestinal virus. A virus he just couldn’t seem to shake. So he had declined my invitation to come over for the honorary holiday meal I’d promised to cook for him. He was simply not up to it.
To appease my frustration that we couldn’t let a Father’s Day go by without getting together, he assured me that any energies spent in making it a special day weren’t necessary. “It’s just another day.” he said. And while he downplayed the idea of the occasion as being anything out of the ordinary, I knew that deep down he appreciated any efforts made to remind him that he was valued, loved, and honored.
Parenting is really tough on one’s self-esteem, (as I mentioned here) and it’s easy to take some pretty hard knocks of guilt when we look back at all of our mistakes and shortcomings. Being reminded once or twice a year that we’re valued by our children is a good thing, I think.
Such is the case in point for acknowledging Dad on Father’s day.
Let me interject by saying that I know what some of you are thinking. Perhaps the idea of this particular holiday (and its counterpart, Mother’s Day) brings a certain level of annoyance because you feel like Brett McKay crudely but poignantly put it when he said that today’s “retailers and marketers—in an effort to make a quick buck, have bastardized the original meaning of Father’s Day. A holiday that was supposed to honor Dad and enumerate his special qualities, now is used to sell chili pepper ties and shop vacs.”
I couldn’t have said it better. But, I can assure you that this annual tradition can mean much more than the sum of what annoys you.
As my dad and I deliberated about the weekend and what we should do, we decided that we’d postpone the meal plans by a week—knowing that he’d surely feel better by then. And besides, I’d probably be less busy the following weekend, right? (Yeah, right.)
He opted to take a rain check on the honorary grilling activities, the ice-cold watermelon, the special cake, and the time spent with his kids and grand-kids.
A rain check he’d never have the opportunity to redeem.
Fast Forward to 2017…
If you’re like me, you have a nice-sized bundle of greeting cards for nearly every occasion, stashed somewhere in your home. This would not be because you decided to open a small card shop in your local town; but because on various occasions over the years, you have spent precious time in the aisles of someone else’s card shop pouring over eloquent sentiments written by savvy writers (who could express your thoughts exactly), to share with those whom you wanted to celebrate. And you grinned as you made your purchase knowing that your thoughtful intentions would bring a smile to that special someone.
But if you’re still like me, the reason you now have that growing stack of greetings cards (for nearly every occasion) is because you failed to give the card to that “someone special”! You may have forgotten about the card until you found it while going through a stack of papers on the kitchen counter two, six, or twelve months after the fact. And after a few minutes of berating yourself for being wasteful of the money spent and the opportunity lost, you choose to save it for someone else or to keep it for the next year’s original occasion—depending on how gender/role-specific the card was.
And so grows your tiny card shop.
You meant well. But you didn’t follow through in delivering the intended blessing. The distracted lives we live have a way of taking little notice of our best intentions!
So, a few months ago, in my busyness to quickly find a somewhat fitting birthday card for someone special, I stumbled upon the harsh reminder of my past intentions carelessly tossed by the wayside.
I stood staring blankly at—not one, but TWO! beautiful, unsigned, and undelivered Father’s Day cards that I had carefully chosen specifically for my father.
Ugh! How did I let at least TWO different Father’s Days go by without expressing proper gratitude and appreciation to the first man to ever love and care for me? To the man who sacrificed so much for his little girl to have the best he could afford (which most of the time wasn’t much!). The man to whom I could call during any crisis, who would patiently listen to me cry about it, talk me through it, and end our conversation by praying over it.
How could I not remember to thank the man who didn’t laugh out loud when I called him one night in a panic, unable to breathe because of a claustrophobic fit brought on by an earlier treatment of Botox? A treatment that left me unable to move certain muscles in my face and unable to wrinkle my nose? Yes, I used to think Botox was necessary! And yes, I was aware that being unable to move certain facial muscles is the point of getting Botox! But for some crazy reason, I couldn’t handle the thought of months of a frozen nose! (For those who will see me on Sunday, I have full use of all frowning and wrinkling abilities now, so don’t bother staring!)
But my point is that the panic was so extreme that had he not prayed and fought to save my mind, I would surely have landed in the psych ward that night. Not even kidding. For those who have never experienced one, panic attacks are no small matter.
Lord only knows how the very treatment I PAID FOR to reduce lines and wrinkles would tip me over the edge of sanity! I laugh now. Out loud, even. But then? Notta chance! It got ugly! And Dad never laughed. (Not that I know of, anyway! Mom, don’t inform me otherwise, please.)
How could I have failed to let even ONE year go by without reminding my dad of just how much I appreciated his love and support all these years? How could I not have assured him that his parental fails over the years—the ones he’d rehearsed numerous times to himself, weren’t fatal; and that I as a parent now totally understand the fails! It would have been the smallest gesture to tell him how I felt in the cards that I had purchased especially for him!
Words spoken (or even better, written) are powerful. They can bring life, healing, and value to an individual. They can bring honor to whom honor is due.
Words not spoken (or even worse, never written) are equally powerful. They can leave the person feeling unloved, unappreciated, and undervalued.
“If you love someone, tell them; because hearts are often broken by words left unspoken.” ~Pamela Daranjo
Staring at the unsigned cards that now had nowhere to go, I regretted the times that I had thought it was too late to sign and send. Not realizing that late was better than never.
Lest you never want to find yourself holding a card for someone whom you will never have the opportunity to give it to, may I share a few words of wisdom? Write in it. Expound in it. Sign it with love and gratitude. Give it. Send it. Or better, deliver it.
And for the sake of the importance of this Father’s Day (that goes far beyond the obligatory feelings of the day), remember that if you are fortunate enough to still be able to communicate with him, your dad needs to hear from you. Whether he admits it or not.
So…my advice to you is simple. Lay aside your annoyances of what the annual day conjures up in you. Lay aside your annoyances and probable disappointments you may have in your dad. And remember the man—flaws and all. Remember the sacrifices made. Remember the things taught. Above all, remember that one day he will not be with you. Perhaps even come Father’s day 2018.
And don’t worry about blowing your money on a geeky tie, another coffee mug, or a box of golf tees. (Restaurant gift cards are nice, though. He does eat!) Simply express your appreciation and admiration with heartfelt words. It needn’t be sappy, fancy, or lengthy. But it must be genuine.
Oh! And what is the Father’s Day card you never want to give? That’d be the one you never give.
Regret over words unspoken is tough. I’ve stood by my dad’s grave and spoken many words of love and gratitude… Words that could have been great for him to hear…had I chosen better timing.
And for those of you who face this Father’s Day without your dad to hug and celebrate, I encourage you to do what I will do. Pause sometime this weekend. Close your eyes. Quiet your soul. Breathe in slowly. Remember what you loved about him. Thank God for the blessing of having a dad for the time you did. And then exhale the whispers of gratitude to the man whose familiar face awaits you on the other side of eternity.
Happy Fathers Day, Dad! You are loved. You are missed. And your legacy is still my treasure.
Your Grateful Daughter.