It occurred to me this morning while walking the dog, this is our twentieth father’s day. It’s hard to imagine this is true. Granted, we celebrated for the future that long-ago, first fathers day. Our oldest was a bump of possibility, only beginning to make herself known. But we celebrated, dreaming of a lifetime of fathers days to come.
I feel a tinge of sorrow today as well. I had only twenty-five fathers days with my own father, nearly as many have passed as were observed. It’s funny to me, looking back over celebrations with our children, twenty years seems a lifetime, and remembering how many I have missed, it seems far too few. Time is such an elastic and untrustworthy construct.
My husband had only four fathers days with his father. He isn’t here for me to ask, but I imagine he has no memory of them. And yet, when it comes to fathering, I can’t imagine anyone who loves with more care and consideration than he does. His love in action is beautiful. Even now, it brings tears to my eyes. In my life I have received two great gifts, one of experiencing a wonderful father, and one of watching a man become a wonderful father.
Whenever we, as a culture, celebrate these identity specific holidays, it seems we enter into a minefield. Fatherhood isn’t always beautiful or empowering. For some it’s an empty space, or filled with difficult, painful memories, for others it’s grieving someone lost. There’s room for all of these feelings, from great joy to deep pain. There isn’t one way to feel about fathers, just as there isn’t one fathering template to follow.
For me, today, I’m making room for great, big emotions, the swell of love and pride for the father who shapes our lives, the ache and emptiness for the one who gently shaped mine. There is room, room for both. One does not negate the other. The joy isn’t better or more important than the grief. Both are valid and together they make the day more beautiful still.
Maybe you have complicated feelings this father’s day. It’s OK. If you are looking for permission to feel however you feel, here it is. Feel your joy, your gratitude, your grief, your pain, your loss, your pride, your heart. Celebrate what is worth celebrating, for there is so much to praise in this world. Mourn what is worth mourning for there is so much pain in this world. Be generous with your love, for your fathers, for your children, for each other.
It’s an amazing thing to be alive, and I am so very grateful for my experience in this world, the beautiful and the sorrowful as well.