Forgiving the Father

We each have father stories.

For some reason, the word FATHER was mentioned multiple times on the American Idol show this season. Many of the contestants had lost their fathers, and the song “Monsters,” written by James Blunt, was sung a few times, bringing strong emotions. Ever since the show ended, I find myself playing the song again and again.

I wonder why?

Based on the volume of tears, my take is that “Monsters” touches a father nerve held deep inside. This song represents giant emotions that occasionally sneak up on us at night. They’re the regrets we have from the past, and the fears that terrify us as we move forward in this big scary world.

My dad has been gone for over 20 years, and yet I didn’t always appreciate him as I was growing up. He had a unique way of thinking (he was an entrepreneur before the word was in common use), his  theories seemed crazy, and he’d stand up at meetings to spout-off to authority figures when everyone else was cooperative. I hear echoes of him every now and then. They say that you can’t become an adult until you can forgive your parents for what you think they did to you. Perhaps “Monsters” gives me the opportunity to examine any residual resentments I hold.

Stories emerge.

Once I went running to my dad with a sore finger. It might have been a hangnail or some others dramatic pain, but he looked at it, and said, “Put your foot out.”

I wondered why, but when I moved my bare foot forward, he stepped on my toes. “Ouch!” I yelled, “Why did you do that?”

He just smiled. “I bet that took away the pain in your finger?”

And he was right.  I could only focus on one hurt, but as a child, I thought it was a terrible way to teach a lesson. This was one of the many times I wondered why he was my dad and not someone else. Someone better.

Years later, I met a 22 year old woman who was surprisingly mature. She styled my hair, so we spent many hours chatting and getting to know each other. She would often lament about her father, and wished that he could have been more like her boyfriend’s dad. That’s when I realized that if HE had been different, then SHE would have been different. His inadequacies left space for her to grow and mature.

It made me ask myself how that discovery could be applied to my own life. At meetings, I’ll occasionally stand up to say what I think needs to be said, just like my dad, hopefully with more tact. It feels as if I am channeling him. I imagine his spirit beside me with an approving nod of pride.

Celebrate the father you were given. If he is no longer here for Father’s Day, sing the “Monsters” lyrics, and remember our joint humanity. We are neither saints nor sinners, just two people doing our best, given the life we’ve inherited.

I love you and want to make you proud, Dad.

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