Today marks the second Father’s Day since my Dad died and the third since my stepfather died. It has been a tough day
Something has seemed off. I’ve been off. Unsettled. And uneasy. I knew it didn’t have to do with any unfinished business with either man because each one’s death fully completed a distinct cycle and, as death does, birthed a new one. I knew it didn’t have to do with missing Dad or missing Thoso. Because, each walks quietly, gently with me every day.
No, the unsettledness, the dis-ease came more because I wasn’t seeing something clearly. I just couldn’t figure out what. Though I thought about it all day. I thought about it at the gym, furiously stair mastering my self to the imaginary floor where I would see what they wanted me to see. I thought about it as I made lunch, hoping that the answer would reveal itself in a chop here, a toss there. I thought about it as I laid down for a nap. Nothing.
Then I stopped thinking. And, of course, immediately I saw. The gift of this Father’s Day: Acceptance.
It’s a gift that came more through surrender than teaching. Neither Dad nor Thoso lectured me. Neither were the kind of men who relished–or even felt comfortable in–imparting life’s great lessons. Or even its simplest ones. I didn’t have the dad who teaches his son how to play catch or tie a tie. I didn’t have the stepfather who teaches his adolescent stepson how to shave or drive a car. When it came to the day-to-day elements of being a “dad”, neither man was up to the task.
And I resented that for many, many years. I’d look at both men and wish I saw something different. I’d wish for the dad on tv or the dads my friends had.
Gradually, at different times, I let go of that resentment and accepted the realities of the dads I had. I quit wanting things neither could ever provide and accepted the lessons..buried deep, deep, deep below the layers of resentment, anger, sadness, and shame…that they could offer me. Life lessons like worshipping the land on which we so briefly walk; trusting in a power far greater than any one individual human; and walking one’s own path instead of the one society so stubbornly insists on charting for you.
In other words, as my Sister so beautifully put it when she and I reflected on what our Dad offered us as a father: accepting that what is given you is enough. There is no need to look elsewhere. Accept. What you have. For it has been given to you. At this moment. Because it is exactly what you need. In fact, it is all you need.
Certainly, acceptance is something I need now. On every level, my life is awash in the waters of uncertainty. My self. My relationships. My work. My community. Wave after wave keeps rolling in, lifting up and consuming the debris of illusions that are scattered on my life’s shoreline. I know that as the tide rolls out, and it will, it will reveal a beautiful, pristine beach of truth.
But, I’m not there quite yet. Rather I’m in that maddening betwixt and between place where it is too late to turn back but too early to see what’s next. It is the space Rilke refers to when he gently suggests we “love the questions” because “the answers could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them.”
Makes a helluva lot of sense on paper. But. Damn. Bringing those words to life in my life? That hasn’t been easy. Because we live in a society that blindly seeks answers, without even a moment’s pause to consider the questions themselves. To dance with them. To surrender to the fact that the questions often teach more, reveal more, than the answers.
Because we have forgotten how, because until an hour ago, I had forgotten how, to simply accept. Things. As. They. Are.
It’s funny. As I type this, I am remembering that, like many a son, I never really knew what to get my Dad or stepfather on Father’s Day. I’d buy them after shave, bad shirts, ties, and a host of other things that they didn’t really need. Funny how life works that now that the days of buying them anything are forever gone, they have gifted me with exactly what I need.
That’s a father for you, huh? Happy Father’s Day!