Sunday, June 17, 2012
Far away, So close............on Father's Day
Yesterday afternoon the house was quiet, truthfully more quiet than it has been for months. Our overnight company had departed after a late breakfast, my husband was golfing, our son now far away in Oklahoma City where he will begin his residency in a few short weeks and I was content and immersed in a moving, personal essay titled Far Away, So Close written by award-winning Globe & Mail columnist Ian Brown who reflects on what we lose when our fathers are gone. Like all exceptional writing, this essay got me to thinking of my own father who I will visit today and of the special relationship that my husband has always had with our only son, more like brothers than the father-son relationship of previous generations.
"You miss your mother in a different, more dramatic way: You were ripped from her body, after all, and so when she dies, a part of what was once you disappears for good. But your father stands apart, watching, the one who shows you how life works, who provides context – your instructor, your guide, your tracker, your friend (if you’re fortunate, and I was) and finally your companion. Eventually, if things go the way they are supposed to, he leaves before you do and you face the world without the person who first ventured it beside you.
What he leaves is a gap, a fissure in your belief that the world is worth exploring. It doesn’t feel like much at first, especially if he was a good father, because he’s made you believe you don’t need him. That is the job of the father, after all – to fail his children, gently."
When I read the last few lines, it got me to thinking of the recent, sometimes heated conversations I would have with my son about his father's habit of leaving him daily to-do notes in the weeks before he prepared to move to another country for the next three years. Lists saying such things as "Did you finish all your US Visa paperwork? Get the oil changed before driving to Oklahoma. Check your US health coverage. Get your tires checked. "Our son thought them highly offensive "Why does dad leave me all these annoying lists? I am 30 years old and have gotten this far, does he think I really need to have him remind me what I have to do?" At first we would giggle, blame it on the particular personality traits of dentists and their task-orientated nature, dismiss his precise handwriting and go on our merry way. As the days passed, the lists became longer, more repetitive, more annoying. We tried rolled our eyes, hinting out loud that we weren't a pair of wayward teens who needed constant reminding of our adult duties, but each morning there was another. I was perplexed, in all other regards my husband treats our son with the adult respect he now deserves, so when we were sitting together after talking to our son in his new destination, I asked him "why do you keep asking him these mundane things, you know he is perfectly capable and you know it drives him crazy". A look was both impish and wistful as he answered simply "it's all I can do now to still feel like his father". I thought of his look and his answer as I read how Ian Brown described a good father as one who has made you believe you don't need him. Then I thought of the tiny drawing our son left behind, one which obviously shows he sees his father and himself as equals now and it was clear.............yes, he has done his job well, beautifully in fact. Those lists were just his way of gently letting go after all. Happy Father's Day JPC. xo
drawing by APC