Recently it was Fathers Day here in Australia. No, my father isn’t here this year. Two very well meaning friends reached out, expressing their condolences that this special day is so soon after Dad’s passing and assuring me that my sadness will pass.
But I’m not sad. I’m not finding the day hard or, difficult.
It’s not that I’m not sentimental, or heartless for that matter. But ‘Fathers Day’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in many families. Nor is it reflective of the original Fathers Day idea, which is far from the commercial bastardization of gift giving of tools, hardware and novelty barbeque items.
Fathers Day or, a day to celebrate fathers, parental bonds and the influence of fathers and male role models in society has a long history as a Pagan celebration and within the European Catholic church. Some branches of Paganism see the Sun as the Father of the Universe and in the northern hemisphere, the Fathers Day date the third Sunday in June is particularly close to the June Solstice. Catholic Europe has celebrated St Josephs Day (19th March) since the Middle Ages (late 14th century) but the Coptic Church has records back to the 5th Century celebrating St Josephs Day. That’s right, Jesus Christs’ foster-father has been being celebrated for a very long time.
Fathers Day doesn’t have to be full of happiness, lightness and new socks. Not all dads are created equal. Not all dads are in the home. Some dads you might not want in the home. Not all dads are present as we grow up. Not just present physically, but emotionally, psychologically or spiritually. I’ve been on both sides of this conundrum in a time when broken and blended families were not spoken about as openly as they are today. My parents were divorced when I was little. My grandpa, Pa, was my significant male role model for many years until Dad became part of my world as, Dad.
For the first few years of primary school, I was the little person preparing a Fathers Day card for my Pa. My Pa came for the school lunches. My Pa was the role model teaching me the important life lessons that stay with me today. Be that reading A.A. Milne or, learning the difference between my Kipling, my Aesop, and my Iliad. Appreciating the spoken word by listening to the Goon Show on the radio and going see live theatre. Or in the workshop, seeing the skill in hand worked carpentry. Learning the difference between a bow saw, a hand saw, a hack saw, a lathe and a hand plane. Perhaps more importantly, the delight in an aperitif before the evening meal. Pedro Ximenez anyone?
Dad is the role model who had his learning in less classical pursuits yet offered important practical life lessons. A different perspective meant that he taught me how to set up a veggie patch and see it thrive and the ins and outs of chicken keeping. Dad is the role model who taught me the basics of mechanic-ing and how to use a front-end loader or, dig a fence post hole (there is a right and wrong way) or, sharpen a chainsaw chain. He also taught me the glory of a cold beer after a long, hot days work. As a teenager, I maintain he was out of touch as I started to find my stride and have opinions of my own. And yes, I protested in 1996 or, 1997 when Pauline (yes, that Pauline) visited our town and no, he couldn’t understand why I was being a ‘bloody bleeding heart’. He may not have agreed with my politics but, thankfully over time, he mellowed towards my opinions.
Two role models. Neither greater nor lesser. I was lucky.
I’m not sad this Fathers Day. Because I have something else to celebrate.
The most important Dad in my life isn’t my Dad.
It’s my children’s’ Dad.
Our six foot of reason. The constant in our lives. The reliable, emotionally available, loving role model who can do a day of cattle work but still have time to bounce on the trampoline. Or, the person who can objectively look at our situation and say, yes, this is our time to work smarter and spend time as a family, chasing dreams. Big and small.
The patient dad who can head out for a long training run but, be there for dinner, bath and bed when the wheels of the day have well and truly begun to fall off. The role model who can gently tend a wounded knee or, a bit of busted bicycle pride then, laugh at the absurdity of our collective dance moves. The adventure planner, goal setter, exploration coordinator and Cranky driver par excellence.
As a Dad, he’s all my boys could ask for and, much more.
That is why I’m not sad about Fathers Day.
I’m looking forward.
I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us.
We are formed by the little scraps of wisdom.