Our dads, for good or ill

It’s Father’s Day this Sunday, and although I am not a father, I can still celebrate it because I have a father and I know many fathers.

Imagine a world where everyone had a dad who was present, loving and wise, who fed us and weren’t afraid to change our nappies, and taught us things about the wonders of nature and how to ride a bicycle, or how to solve a maths problem, and was patient with us when we didn’t get it right the first time.

Imagine a dad whose love for his wife taught his children what real love looks like.

One of the tragedies of life is how many people never had a dad like that.

Recently, a successful entrepreneur with roots in Klipfontein, Myrtle Gray, wrote a book called The Fatherless Daughter. In it, she related what it was like to grow up with an invisible dad, one who did not acknowledge her as his daughter until sometime in her teens, and then only barely.

She told how she had to heal from that hurt, and it starts with forgiveness.

Many people can relate to Gray’s story. We live in a society of broken families and absent and deadbeat dads. Some family situations are even worse, where dad is someone to fear, and there is horrific abuse and neglect.

Even in the most stable and loving families, dads, being fallible humans, can say or do things that hurt us and take years to heal from, perhaps even a lifetime.

I remember reading somewhere many years ago, how most men have been wounded by their own fathers, and have to deal with that wounding in their lives, determining what kind of men they will be.

What peace there is in coming to terms with that, to finally forgive your dad, and to not only remember the bad experiences, the pain and disappointment, but all the good memories and the qualities you appreciate in your father. And then to dwell on the good, so the bad fades in comparison.

A few years ago, I came across a beautiful song called, Letter in the Mail, by Tim O’Brien. It’s from the perspective of a father, in his aged years, and living alone, who is so grateful to receive a letter from his son who lives far away.

The closing verse goes:

I got your letter in the mail
Throwin’ off my sense of scale
It made me happy it made me sad
To read those words “I love you dad”

Happy Father’s Day to all dads.

– Jon Houzet