A Father's Day editorial: The legacy of Dads
This editorial is adapted from one that first published on June 19, 2017.
We came across this observation from gifted Indian author Kiran Desai a while back, and we were so powerfully moved by it that we tucked it away for a day like today:
"When he died, I went about like a ragged crow telling strangers, 'My father died, my father died.' My indiscretion embarrassed me, but I could not help it. Without my father on his Delhi rooftop, why was I here? Without him there, why should I go back? Without that ache between us, what was I made of?"
Some among us, through reasons of premature death or unconscionable abandonment. walk through life without knowing our fathers. But for most of us, our fathers are among the most dominant figures in our lives, more human and complex than we saw in our childhoods, more relevant than we may appreciate in our adulthoods.
"Oddly, I think I came to better understand who my father was after he died, in thinking about him with a degree of memorial detachment that I never had in the day-to-day relationship with him while he lived," one of our editors said. "During his lifetime, I was too consumed with my intensely personal sense of the relationship to step back and look at him as a whole person."
There are good fathers and bad ones. Most are somewhere in between, heroic at times, at least somewhat flawed at others. But virtually all become central to our lives. Virtually all of them become part of our definition of who we are.
Many of us see ourselves at least partially through our perceptions of the way he sees us.
If you're a father, remember this. How you respond to your child, how you nurture or demean, how you praise or criticize, how you love or withhold, all of these things have a lifetime impact on your child.
"What we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us," the late Italian novelist Umberto Eco said. "We are formed by little scraps of wisdom."
If you're a child, remember this also, this power your father has on your life. Embrace the positive lessons rather than obsessing on the negative ones.
And as one of our reporters advised: Show up.
"Show up even when you're busy and can't stay for long and if you don't have gifts. Show up even if he no longer remembers your name or your kids' names ... Show up even when it's difficult and there's not much to say or do about it. It's called 'the ministry of presence.' And it's powerful."
Tell him thanks.
Tell him he matters in your life.
Tell him you love him.
And today, make sure you also tell him, "Happy Father's Day."