When I was a kid I didn’t truly appreciate you. I’ll just say it. They never told me how hard a man works. That work slowly kills a man, grinding away at who he was and what he dreamed he’d become, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Slowly and almost imperceptibly. They never told me that men die, on average, ten years sooner than women. They never told me about prostate cancer. They never told me about depression and anxiety in men. They never told me any of this.
“Holy crap!!!” …. “How did Dad do this!!!”
Then one day I became a man. And I became a father. And I said to myself, “Holy crap!!!” (Or something along those lines.) “How did Dad do this!!!” The treadmill. The daily grind. Doing what you have to do to put food on the table and feed the family. Trying to earn another pay check when the one you just worked your tail off for disappeared in seconds. That pressure cooker we call “Being a Man.” I always knew that you were tough. But experience is the great revelator, isn’t it? My eyes were opened. And you–the one who was my rock, my anchor, my hero, the guy who could do anything–grew even more in stature.
I started to feel bad for all the nights I kept you up, worrying if I’d make it home all right. I started to appreciate those long drives you made from the other side of the state just to make a ball game of mine. I felt guilty for the times when you finally made it through a week and yearned for time with your family only to see us kids walk out the door and say, “See ya, Dad! I’m going to hang out with the guys….” Now I know why you said to us three knucklehead boys, “Look, I don’t care if you beat each other senseless. Just take it outside.” I didn’t understand what it was like to be a man and a father. I just didn’t get it.
I’m sure I still don’t quite get it. You see, as I see the trail that you are blazing for me, wisdom has taught me that there’s still a lot I don’t know and that there’s so much that I can learn from you. That’s what scares me–that I don’t even know what I don’t know! Yes, I’m still that little boy, in a sense, walking behind you with my little plastic push mower as you mow the lawns of life, wanting to be just like you. I want to have the patience and courage that you have developed by fighting through a broken neck, a spinal cord injury, kidney failure and cancer. I want to have the strength and humility that you have earned. I’m not quite there yet. In fact, I have a long ways to go. You’re the genuine article. I feel like a pretender.
I want to spend more time with you. But, you see, now I’m caught in that daily grind and there’s days I don’t have the energy to do anything but come home from work, plop down in the recliner, and turn on the ball game. But maybe we can grab lunch every now and then. And maybe we can take in a ball game or two here and there. And we’ll definitely do some fishing. Oh, and if the Cubs make it to another World Series, I’ll let you be my psychotherapist to help me through it again. Thank you for that, Dad. I couldn’t have done it without you. Every Cubs fan needs a good psychotherapist. And every boy deserves a Dad like you.
Happy Fathers Day.