It’s been nearly five years my father’s been gone, now. Actually, I’m surprised by the length of time. Like an unwatched pot… “Oh, that’s boiling already?”

I’ve always considered it something of a cruel, ironic joke, that he should have passed on, so close in the rolling year, to the day we’ve come to know as “Father’s day”… A hair longer than a week before it. There seems no particular significance to the relationships between the dates, but there’s no denying their closeness has always left me vaguely discomforted for reasons I’ve never fully worked out. Anyway;

I’ve come to understand quite a bit about my father in the last 15 years, or so. Oddly, most of my understanding came after he’d died a few years ago, and most of the revelations have been as a result of my having lived life. He’s never far from my thoughts, and so as life events unfold, I always have his guidance nearby to lean on, and his guideposts to measure by. And, as I go though this process, I’m leaning more about both who I am, and who he was.

And, oh boy has a lot ever happened since his death. Think about the changes in the last five years, in your own life. I suppose it could be fairly said that nothing has happened to me, though, that he hadn’t prepared me for. The funny part is, I didn’t know I was being prepared for it, at the time. I think he didn’t know what the future would bring, either. All he could do is impart the basic values, and hope I was able to apply them correctly. Apparently I have, for the most part.

What amazes me is how well I can hear his voice now that he’s passed on; in many ways, better than I ever could while he was alive. Those of you who have lost a parent will understand what I’m saying, here, I think. It is yet another cruel irony, I guess, that his voice seems to ring louder in my ears, in my head, now that he’s gone…. This is particularly true when value judgments come up. I suspect this is as it should be… Those being his most important lessons… But I still marvel at it all.

I also, within the last several years, find myself dimly aware that I’ve managed to pick up some of the traits he had, without trying. These are not things I’d picked up consciously… In fact, when I was seventeen, I think I might have made the choice to avoid these traits. Now at nearly three times that age, I have begun to regard adopting these things as the natural progression… That all is as it should be.

Dad was a product of his times. This is a crucial point to me of late, is the understanding of that one fact, because I still catch myself judging how I’m doing as a father, with my two boys, using his methods, and his… (what I will call for simplicity, though I mean nothing so flippant)… Style points…. As guideposts… And usually, in my estimation, coming up well short of that ideal in the judgment. It’s taken me quite a while… More time than most, I tend to think… To understand that those style points are nigh on useless given the difference between the times in which we live now, and the times then… That I have to look deeper than this. It’s something like allowing for inflation in an adjusted income figure over time, one adjusts the perception through for the times of each of us, there are more traits we share than we don’t.

I am reminded of this, today more than most days, as my two boys spend their day trying to make me feel special. I can see myself doing this at their age, and I marvel as history repeats itself. They tell me “Happy Father’s Day!” and mean it, and other than “thank you” (and a hug) I find myself unsure how to respond.

If you really want to know the truth, I’ve never been fully comfortable in the role of ‘father’, because I’m never sure I can fill the role I knew as father… Being, inside, the same scared- to- death twelve year old kid I was all those years ago. In thinking on this, I guess we, none of us, ever really grow up to the point where that small scared child is ever completely silent. We’d better hope not, anyway… That twelve year old kid is needed to keep us from falling into the Scrooge-like insanity, I think… as I wrote last Christmas. Still, we try to balance that twelve year old inside us with reality… A hellish task I don’t wish on anyone, but one we all face, I think.

An old Moody Blues tune comes into my mind, unbidden. It seems to speak to this situation rather clearly.

All my life, I
Never really knew me
’till today
Now, I know why;
I’m just another step
Along the way

I don’t know what I’m searching for
I never have opened the door,
Tomorrow might find me at last,
Turning my back on the past,
But, time will tell, of stars that fell,
A million years ago.
Memories can never take you back, home, sweet home.
You can never go home anymore.

That’s the reality that twelve year old inside us, doesn’t want to hear. But… And I don’t care if you’re a hundred and five years old; that twelve year old is still inside us, and still of a mindset that he’s waiting for his adult life to begin, and that mindset dims our vision to the reality that our adult life has ALREADY, long past begun. In many ways, I finally see this is a conflict we play out internally, all our lives. Implicit in that understanding, however, is the recognition that, for all that I held him to be when I was a child, Dad still had that twelve year old in HIM, too. Like the milestone of five years gone… Like the waking up in the morning, through the aches and pains and understanding that the grey-bearded guy in the bathroom mirror really IS me…it’s a startling discovery.

Its amazing, if you think on it for very long… All our childhood, we champ at the bit like race horses spoiling for a race to get started. Even at the very young ages, we yearn for adulthood…(“I’ll do it MYSELF, Daddy…”) When we finally do get to adulthood, we end up spending a lot of our young adult lives in this in-between stage, not fully understanding that the green flag has dropped, the race is on, and the turtle’s already got a 30 length lead, Mister Rabbit… And some of us never do make it beyond this stage at all, on ANY level.

It’s what Hayward of the Moodies was talking about in that same song I quoted before;

I lie awake for hours, I’m just waiting for the sign
When the journey we are making has begun,
Don’t deny the feeling that is stealing through your heart,
Every happy ending needs to have a start.

Perhaps I now have a working definition of a mid-life crisis; the feeling that I need to get going on things, because I’m running out of time.

Such are my thoughts this Father’s day.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. This is me saying “I get it, now… at least part of it… better than I did. We were more alike than I knew.”, and it’s my Father’s day gift. More of you survives than either of us knew… and is with me every day.

And yet, I miss you.