My relationship with my father hasn’t always proved a smooth ride. We’ve both lugged around our blind spots and buried pain. Yet as people tend to do, we’ve also grown up over the last fifty-some years, learned a thing or two about forgiveness, gratitude, and love.
When I reached the wise old age of twenty, my eyes opened to the idea that parents weren’t perfect. That new perspective loosened some of the emotional chains of expectation. I could view their opinions and reactions within the context of their generation and upbringings. This altered understanding gave me permission to travel my own journey without my inner critic’s disapproval hanging over my head.
In my thirties, I experienced another “duh” moment when I realized that parents continue to grow and learn throughout their lives. I am now their age, and the silly, narrow-mindedness of my previous level of understanding is downright embarrassing. Yet there you have it.
In my forties, I learned that there’s no going back to unsay old words and unhurt old wounds. What I most wanted was a trip back in time, a redo, a gift impossible for him to give me. To wrestle our relationship from the muddy past required compassion, and forgiveness for mistakes neither of us can change, no matter how hard we may wish to.
As I worked in my garden this Father’s Day, I found myself reflecting on the many things I learned from my father that have enriched my life. Despite our struggles, there were hidden blossoms among the weeds that occasionally crowded our paths. I thought I’d share a few:
A love of the outdoors
Respect for diversity
Kindness toward all living things
A passion for reading
A lifelong fondness for power tools
To work with integrity
To grow vegetables
That money isn’t important
That I can do anything I put my mind to
That it’s possible to change
And never too late to say I love you.
Love you, dad.