Like everyone else, I came into this world through a father. We all know how flawed these people are, how much they let us down. Some of us also know how good they can be. From what others tell me, I think mine was better than most. At least he stuck around. He scorned the idea of "quality time." He was always there for us. He couldn’t understand how a man could leave a child, his own child. My dad took responsibility, cherished his children, and found meaning in being as good a father as he was capable of being.
Maybe it’s naive, but I like to think that as awful and pathetic as our actions might be, that we did our best at the time. Since I too am a father I am learning how hard it is to be a good one and I’ve become gentler in my assessment, less judgmental of how well he did, and how well I did. Forgiveness for his shortcomings, and mine, are easier as I age. My greatest failures in life are as a father. My greatest triumphs and gifts to the world are also expressed in the lives of my children.
Fathering continues as children become adolescents and young adults. They don’t need you any more but some kids still want you. There are still ways to father, something to offer as long as we stay awake, still learning, still growing. I have a feeling that observing your father aging and dying can have a profound effect on children of all ages so I hope, pray, and struggle every day to live gratefully and gracefully.
My youthful transformation clearly affected my father and I saw him transform too in his last years. His transformation gave me faith and trust that enlightening can happen up to the very end of life. His last words, “Everything’s gonna be alright,” encourage me that he was seeing something that can only be viewed with the eyes of someone approaching the gates of a new world, calming my fears as I too draw near.