On the face of it, Father's Day is a happy, joyous occasion. Hallmark prints millions of sentimental and funny cards to celebrate the day. Young children glow as they give cards and presents to their fathers. And those who lost their father's long ago wax sentimental about the wonderful father no longer in their life.
But for many, Father's Day is a challenging day. For those who have lost their father recently the pain is still too strong to be light-hearted. Some people never had a dad and this day serves to remind them of what they never had. Others watched their dad abandon them, never to be seen again. And still more simply have a complex, difficult relationship with their fathers.
I grew up in a home with a single parent. I seem to recall my father moving out when I was about five. The divorce, court dates and battles went on for much of my childhood.
Being a child of divorced parents can be very confusing. Children can't understand the complexities of grown up problems. That often leads to taking sides.
When I was in high school I chose to not see my father for an entire year, not even on Father's Day. My father was very hurt by that. I was a stubborn teenager who thought it was time to assert my independence and control of relationships. I relented after that year but our relationship was still strained.
Later when I started college and lived away from home, I decided it was time to start fresh with my Dad. I invited him to engage in some honest dialogue and he reciprocated. For the first time I was able to look back on the past with an adult mind. I was able to logically sort through all the memories and separate the fact from fiction.
From the conversations with my Dad, I learned that no one is perfect. I don't mean that to sound flip. As children we grow up with the illusion that our parents are without faults.
As our new relationship, our adult relationship, developed, I learned forgiveness. I don't mean that easy "I forgive you" that lightly falls from the lips. I mean that raw, honest forgiveness that only comes from deep within the soul.
Today, my Dad and I can talk about more mundane things like gardening and grandchildren. The deeper conversations have been relegated to the past. We can celebrate our hard work with lighthearted banter and gently nudging debates about family history.
For me, Father's Day is truly a day of forgiveness. A day to celebrate second chances. I'm grateful that my dad and I had a chance to re-define and re-create our relationship, to forgive each other and to move forward in a meaningful, positive way.
It's never too late for second chances. It's never too late to extend your hand. Keep your mind open and your expectations to a minimum. Reach out and offer to dialogue. Your request just might be reciprocated.