A Father’s Day Message

My dad passed in 1981, sometimes that seems like a “forever ago”; sometimes like yesterday.  Today, my dad has been gone for thirty-six years; it is strange to realize I only had him for thirty-three.

I thought about him a lot yesterday and what I would say in this post.  I was surprised that the wound of his passing is still so raw.  I know he loved Roger and me but I don’t know if he understood us.  I’d like to think I have lived long enough to understand him a little better.

Seven years before his passing, I was driving from my home outside of Clark Air Base in the Philippines to work when I heard a song playing on the Armed Forces Radio station.  It was called “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin.

I pulled over to the side of the road and sat there and cried… It was a perfect example of what I did not want my son or daughter to ever feel like.  No father is perfect… heck, we’re just people… we make good decisions that turn out wrong and bad decisions that hurt.

Although, there is a time when a child believes his father is perfect, it is a short time.  Sometimes a father is able to be redeemed, but seldom by his own actions.  Rather the redemption comes… usually… when that child has his or her own first child.

You see, the child can never know how much he or she is loved until that child becomes a father or mother.  That kind of love in inexplicable, you can’t explain it, you can’t describe it… it just IS!

Another form of redemption comes as the child gets older.  “Sometimes you have to live long enough to understand something.”  Or, as Mark Twain said it, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

So, if you are a child reading this, there is hope for your father… that hope is YOU.

If you are a father, I’ll leave you with this curse; I’d like to think it made a difference in me… but you’d have to ask John and Shelley…

Cat’s in the Cradle  (Song by Harry Chapin)

My child arrived just the other day
He came to the world in the usual way
But there were planes to catch, and bills to pay
He learned to walk while I was away
And he was talking ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew
He’d say, I’m gonna be like you, dad
You know I’m gonna be like you

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you coming home, dad?
I don’t know when
But we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said, thanks for the ball, dad, come on let’s play
Can you teach me to throw, I said, not today
I got a lot to do, he said, that’s okay
And he walked away, but his smile never dimmed
Said, I’m gonna be like him, yeah
You know I’m gonna be like him

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home, Dad
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

Well, he came from college just the other day
So much like a man I just had to say
“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while”
He shook his head and said with a smile
“What I’d really like, Dad, is to borrow the car keys
See you later, can I have them please”

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man on the moon
When you comin’ home son
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, Dad
You know we’ll have a good time then

I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away
I called him up just the other day
I said, “I’d like to see you if you don’t mind”
He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I can find the time
You see my new job’s a hassle and kids have the flu
But it’s sure nice talking to you, Dad
It’s been sure nice talking to you”

And as I hung up the phone it occurred to me
He’d grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon
When you comin’ home son
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, Dad
We’re gonna have a good time then

 

 

2 Comments

Louis Cortez

Funny, but I had a similar experience with this very song! Miss my DAD big time. So proud he is a WWII combat vet!!!

Susan Drews

My father made it into his early Eighties. We were living in the same town, my life journey’s took me away for years, moving a lot. Two very special things happened that shifted the relationship between dad and me. First, on my land, we worked together to clear an old fence so a new fence could be built. Growing up dad didn’t talk about his Navy service life, until, I asked him what was it like to be in the Navy. One question that opened a flood gate. He was pleased to answer this question, over and over and over again. His experiences were interesting and I quickly realized I had given him the gift he needed, a chance to talk and share his memories.

In 2006 I signed a contract to have a new house built in another town. Now, for three months, I was homeless. With my possessions in storage I asked dad if I could live with him while my house is being built. Mother had passed away a few years before. He was happy to have company. I was preoccupied with work, staying on the computer for hours each day. He would appear, standing in the doorway, looking at me and grinning, shrug his shoulders meaning “I want to tell you a story so can I come in?” I always listened even though the same stories had been repeated hundreds of times. I saw the joy in his eyes the satisfaction in his voice all because I listed to him. It was plain to see he felt good talking about the high points of his Navy life. To share how he felt fighting in a war. The up and down, good and bad that life brings to a person.

I learned a valuable lesson in those three months. Listening is a gift. Give this gift often, to everyone. He died from cancer and other ailments in 2009. I came to know him better, to forgive him for the things he did wrong in my life, to appreciate him, to love him more in those short three months I lived under his roof again. We are more prone to be the tellers of our life stories, especially the funny stuff that makes people laugh, but the real gift, the one thing that will form a bond of friendship, is to be understanding and LISTEN.

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