I’m not – by a long-shot – the only kid in the world who grew up without a father. The truth is, I had one – he just wasn’t around much.
My father’s life would span 20,248 days (or 1,749,427,200 seconds, 29,157,120 minutes, or 485,952 hours if you just happen to be obsessively counting).
By my calculation, my father and I spent roughly 600 days (give or take) in any kind of contact with one another.
Although I don’t think he intended to be the sort of father he was – or wasn’t – to me, I ended up pretty much without one. Six hundred days leaves you little to remember, particularly if you cannot yet walk, talk or write anything down.
The upside is that you really don’t miss what you never had a memory of anyway.
Lost. In truth, Father’s Day was problematic for me only in how uncomfortable it made other people. I found it easier on all involved to go along with it when people assumed I had “lost” my father.
In my mind I had, just not necessarily in the general sense the term implied.
He was lost all right, somewhere in the contiguous United States.
Like many who stem from less than Ozzie and Harriet circumstances, I found that by being vague and quickly changing the subject, you could save a lot of uncomfortable silences and conversational lulls.
Granted, this had the unfortunate side effect of leading even a fair number of my close friends and regular acquaintances to simply assume that my father was deceased. I rarely bothered to correct them.
Well. This worked well for over three decades. Then suddenly and unexpectedly – with all the force of detonating an A-bomb to the psyche – my still far-too-young father was really and truly gone.
Really lost. Really forever.
Suddenly I had a lot of explaining to do – mostly to myself. It’s funny how you can lose something you never really had and suffer irreversibly nonetheless.
In recovering from the unexpected loss of my father, or at the very least, any chance to even KNOW my father, I learned a lot.
The first thing is that “recover” is the worst possible word, as I don’t believe you “recover” so much as “cope and move on” as if from a dreadful disease that has left you different (but stronger).
It turns out that all those years of “don’t ask, don’t tell” aren’t something to be proud of.
No, they just leave you lacking. You also risk spending the rest of your life trying to fill in the blanks.
I can never really be sure what my father would have thought of the life I had made for myself. What he would have thought of my family – his family, too, after all.
I never asked him. I was stubborn and willful and prideful and so terrifically, terribly busy building a life. I’m told I am a lot like my father that way. Of course, I have to take someone else’s word for that, too.
Most important, I won’t ever really know how big a role he has played in my life despite his absence – or because of it.
Do. As always, I tend to preach more than I practice and am annoyingly full of “Do as I say, not as I did.”
If you can read this and you are in doubt, in flux, or in limbo in a relationship (or out of one) with your father (or step-father), I encourage you to take this random Sunday assigned to fathers on behalf of the card and barbecue-accessories consortium and make a little more out of it.
Take a chance, risk a glance or make even a modicum of contact. You don’t have to kiss and make up. You don’t have to become best pals and go fishing.
Honestly, you don’t even have to really LIKE each other.
I’ll concede that maybe you’ll never have more than a grudging sense of respect, but I’m here to tell you that whatever it is, at least you’ll KNOW.
Because in the end, if your father should become “lost” for good, should – Lord forbid – become truly gone in the forever sense, you will find, too late, that what you miss the most is something profoundly irretrievable: opportunity.
And once that’s gone, no random Sunday in June can ever bring it back.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt wishes all the fathers and step-fathers a very happy barbecue-laden Father’s Day! She welcomes comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org; http://kymberlyfosterseabolt.com; or P.O. Box 38, Salem, Ohio 44460.)
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