Father’s Day can bring up a mixture of emotions for those who never knew their father, who have ambivalent feelings about him or who wish he were a different guy. For those who didn’t get the fathers they wished for, Father’s Day may be a day of forgiving their fathers for not living up to their expectations.
I don’t have a lot to forgive my father for. He was always present in my life, both in my childhood and adulthood. He was a generous man who was kind to his family, friends and community. He taught me how to skate, play softball, bowl, ride horseback, and play golf. He enjoyed life and lived it to the fullest. If I have to forgive him for anything, it’s that he didn’t take better care of himself so he could have lived longer.
Father’s Day holds double significance for me. First, I got married on Father’s Day in 1968, and second, I am grateful for my wonderful father who was a big part of my life until he passed away in 1996. Even though my father has been gone for 20 years, he is still present in my heart, especially on Father’s Day.
Many people are not as fortunate and spend years trying to forgive their fathers. In a poignant tribute to Father’s Day, Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond, the hosts of Dear Sugar podcast, answered the question: how do we forgive our fathers?
In this episode, the Sugars take two questions on fatherhood, one from a new father who fears that his depression will be felt by his baby daughter and one from a young woman who yearns for a deeper connection with her distant father.
They also talk with Native American writer Sherman Alexie who discusses fatherhood and the ways in which he still finds himself seeking connection with his now-deceased father, with whom he had a troubled but powerful relationship. Alexie shares a powerful poem by Dick Lourie that is read in Alexie’s movie “Smoke Signals.”
Forgiving Our Fathers
How do we forgive our Fathers?
Maybe in a dream
Do we forgive our Fathers for leaving us too often or forever
when we were little?
Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage
or making us nervous
because there never seemed to be any rage there at all.
Do we forgive our Fathers for marrying or not marrying our Mothers?
For Divorcing or not divorcing our Mothers?
And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness?
Shall we forgive them for pushing or leaning
for shutting doors
for speaking through walls
or never speaking
or never being silent?
Do we forgive our Fathers in our age or in theirs
or in their deaths
saying it to them or not saying it?
If we forgive our Fathers what is left?
Whether your father is still in your life or just a memory, I encourage you to think of him on Father’s Day and appreciate the love he gave you.