Today is Father’s Day! Father’s Day was started in the the early 20th century by Sonora Smart Dodd. Dodd was raised (along with five other siblings) by a single father after her mother died in childbirth. She advocated for a paternal alternative to Mother’s Day to recognize fathers and the special role they play in raising children.
The truth is, mother and father relationships aren’t what Leave It to Beaver might have had you believe. Some mothers do the lion share of the work in child-raising. Some fathers (like Dodd’s) do. Sometimes it is equal. Sometimes it is not.
I really appreciated this thought from one of my girl crush’s June Diane Raphael which she shared on Instagram last Mother’s Day,”special love to those of us who have lost our moms, have a difficult relationship w our moms, have lost children, or are struggling to become mothers.”
It isn’t always as simple as a Hallmark card.
My dad and I weren’t always close when I was growing up. He lived four hours away and I only saw him once a month. Extended time over the summer. Naturally, since we lived so far apart, a lot of our time together was spent in a car. In fact, my favorite memories of my dad from when I was a kid were those long hours in the car. I always snagged the front seat (brothers go in the back) so my dad and I would spend endless hours catching up with each other and cracking bad jokes. There was nothing remarkable about any of those hours or conversations, but the special was in the ordinary.
Here’s me and my dad when I was a kid, we probably had had one of those long conversations during a car ride recently. Plus, it was the 80s so you could sit a kid this little in the front seat:
Now, that I’ve grown up we both have to navigate a new relationship. A few years ago, I went through a particularly rough time and my dad was there for me. Even more remarkable, we weren’t just a parent/child relationship any more. We weren’t even a parent/adult child relationship. My dad became my friend.
Now I’m so grateful for the special relationship that we have. We still have the same dry, sarcastic sense of humor which can (accidentally) offend others. We both know what it feels like to have to apologize because you offended someone with your sense of humor. We both love to sing along with the radio in the car. We both know what it feels like to lose sleep because of anxious thoughts and worries. We both love social interactions and parties but need mental energy to prepare and alone time to recover from them. We love talking about ideas and family and what makes people tick. I’m really glad my dad is my friend.
He doesn’t even know this, but seven years ago, when my paternal grandmother died we were getting dressed for the funeral and my stepmother said we had to be sure to take handkerchiefs with us in case we started crying. I’ve never owned or used a handkerchief before in my life, but ok. She gave me one of my dad’s that was embroidered with a letter “S” which is the first letter of his first name.
I didn’t cry that day or use the handkerchief, but I kept it. I’ve carried it with me everywhere I’ve gone for the past seven years. It is one of my valued possessions and I know I will continue to carry it with me for the rest of my life. It feels like I am taking a small part of my dad with me everywhere that I go. On particularly hard days, I sleep with it under my pillow.
I know it’s just a handkerchief, but the symbolism is something much deeper than that. I will carry the lessons I have learned from my dad and the love he has shown me everywhere I go. I hope you have had those blessings from a father the way that I have, but if you are one of those with difficult or strained relationships or someone with a father that has passed on, you have my compassion and just remember that lessons and love will come from many people and many relationships over the years as long as you are willing to accept them.
If you need to, I’ll even let you borrow my handkerchief.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!