I have a regretful confession. I nearly forgot my dad on Father’s Day this past Sunday. Father’s Day was sandwiched between coming home from a week long family vacation on Saturday and dropping my daughters off to camp on Sunday afternoon. While I was doing parenting pirouettes with laundry in and out, suitcases emptied and filled, and finding the plastic rain ponchos I knew I had somewhere, I was distracted to say the least.
Add to this, my daughters and I gave my dad – their Funpa – his Father’s Day gift a week prior to the actual day. We knew my girls would be with their dad, so we celebrated early. Plus I had been bursting to give him his gift since finding it and purchasing it in January – a University of Oregon lamp for my fanatical Ducks-fan-father.
By the time the girls were dropped off at camp and my dad asked if I was taking him out for tacos and margaritas, I had no idea that he was handing me a gentle reminder. I had not even wished him Happy Father’s Day and it was near 5 p.m.. “Oh Dad, I am so sorry.” I cringed when the day dawned on me. I did not even have time for dinner. My laundry still lay in a heap at home and I needed to get ready for re-entry into work the next day.
How my dad felt in that moment, he would never tell me. But he did not have to. As a divorce lawyer I have seen the look in the face of many fathers I represented over the years. The brave face one puts on when realizing they are an afterthought. I knew the slump in the shoulders that accompanies a feeling of being secondary.
Fathers may have these feelings as they come up against outdated stereotypes of Disneyland and deadbeat dads in custody disputes. They may face judgment if they only gave a handful of baths and feel frustrated when no one seems to remember that every single night he bade his child goodnight with a tender smile while saying “goodnight Pickle” and it would be one of the fondest memories of childhood carried forward by his child.
I thought about my dad the whole way home and those things I most learned from him. I thought about our twin tempers and our incessant need to have all the plans prepared way in advance. I thought about what my dad most needed. He most needed to be acknowledged by me. To know that I see him for who he is to me. It is what all parents need, and I dare say, dads sometimes even more. I wrote my dad a heartfelt message and posted it publicly to accentuate the acknowledgment that filled my heart and I hoped would make him feel as important as he is. The irony of my dad’s Father’s Day gift now made me smile, for it was me who was seeing the light.