Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father's Day Meditation. Sort Of.

Let me BRIEFLY dispose of the hippopotamus in the mud puddle before he does something tasteless.

The elephant in the living room is long since gone from MY house, but the hippo does make an appearance twice a year, sometimes three times. I do not particularly begrudge him the space in the mud puddle; in fact, he is the only one who uses it, except for the Moose, when he gets a rash.
It's just that when the hippo is ensconced in the cool, soothing, gludge, he has the nasty habit of getting what used to be referred to as 'the vapors,' and it splatters.

So, here is me, driving the hippo out of the mud puddle:

Father's Day ceased to have much attraction to me after 1975. Up until then, my GrandDaddy Paulette was alive, and he was in loco parentis. 
(That does not mean that he was a crazy parent; in means he was acting in the place of a parent; for the first five years of my life, he was the adult male authority I interacted with every day.)
And, for reasons that MOSTLY departed with the elephant when I drove him out of the living room, I was pretty much done with Father's Day after 1975. There were notable exceptions, but the general rule was that I didn't like Father's Day.

THIS IS A MAJOR, HUGE, GIGANTIC POINT: Be clear on this: it was the HOLIDAY I objected to, NOT being a father. There is no role I have taken on in my life that I have loved more than being a father. People say, 'being a grandparent is much better than being a parent, because when you get tired of playing with them, you just hand them back.' Well, I understand that perspective, and those ARE nice moments when the parents return from their date night, and baby-sitting is over, but otherwise, the statement is just wrong, wrong, wrong. I love being a grandparent! But, here's the analogy that comes to mind:
'Being a grandparent' is to 'being a parent' in the same way that 'taking your best friend's older sister to senior prom because you didn't have a date' is to 'going with your fiance to pick our a wedding ring.' 
And since I love being a grandparent SO MUCH, that may tell you a bit about how much I love being a father. That role certainly has changed as my bio-children have become adults, but it's still a badge I wear with pride.

And yet, for reasons, I didn't like the Father's Day holiday, and let the people around me know that.

Then, some few years ago, it changed. I had the great good fortune to find my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA,  shortly before Christmas of 2010, and we met face to face for the first time on that day. That was also when I discovered that she was not the Starter Kit wife, the one with no options. Nope, she came fully equipped, with every option package, and chief among these were 6 year old Kenneth and 4 year old Alicia (plus some adult children). Yup, I wasn't just going to be getting a wife, I was getting an entire new family to raise!

Daunting, at first. However,  within a very short time, I was thoroughly converted to the idea.

In June 2012, it was Kenneth & Alicia's first Father's Day as my own. Children's Church at Liberty Church, where we attend, had helped all the kids prepare a special gift & card. I found out about it, and started my customary grumble about not wanting to observe the day.

Vanessa got my attention, by getting a firm grip on my right ear, and pulling me into a private area behind some pyracantha hedge, where she proceeded to explain it to me in a way I could understand.
"You listen to me, Pat Patterson! You are going to stop this talk RIGHT NOW about not liking Father's Day. I don't CARE if you don't like Father's Day! This has NOTHING to do with what you like and what you don't like! Those children have made you a gift, and you are going to be GRACIOUS and THANKFUL and show them HOW MUCH YOU APPRECIATE IT! The next words out of your mouth had better be "yes, ma'am" or I am going to be upset with you! Do you UNDERSTAND?"
Well, all of a sudden, I DID understand, and so I said "yes, ma'am," and I complied. I should mention that she held me by the ear during the entire discussion, and that each exclamation point or capitalized word represents her rhetorical style of twisting my ear and/or pushing me further into the pyracantha. It's an amazing tactic for helping your fellow conversationalist clarify their thinking. This is what I looked like after our conversation:

So, that's how it happened that I began to be able to feign appreciation for the day, and over the last six years, not actively dread the day. And, when my children or grandchildren give me a Father's Day card, or an email, text, or phone call, I really DO appreciate it. It also doesn't bum me out if, acting on  instructions given in prior years, they allow me to pass the time in peace. I throw no interpretation on either approach, other than to be grateful.

And that is true contentment: to be thankful and satisfied with what you have.

A late edit:
Caleb Gramling, the son of one of my oldest and dearest friends, sings this song, which is the prayer for almost every father I know.

Peace be on your household.

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