I subscribe to a poetry website written by Samantha Reynolds at bentlily.com. She writes short, powerful poems that never fail to move me, to tears or to laughter. Either way, I love to feel what her words produce in me. A recent poem, The Man Who Got Our Envelopes, reveals the wonder of special moments that stack up when children are young and her memory of mailing pictures in envelopes when she was a young girl. It never says but we know, as readers, that the pictures are being sent to her dad. Below the poem, in my email, she added the story of her parents' summer fling and how a future life together was not an option. So she grew up with her mother taking on the job of both father and mother.
Reynolds and her husband have now produced a video that shows fathers and their children, standing face to face asking or answering the question: What about me makes you proud? You can view the three minute video here: Tell Them Now Video. Watch it, perhaps with a tissue to catch the tears.
Of course this video moves me to attempt a view into my own hazy childhood. What special moments happened every day, those many years ago, but were lost in the craziness of the next one? Perhaps cherished moments were noted but not captured; felt but not expressed. Four children within an eight year span would have been a handful for any couple. But we had one absent player. I always loved my dad and I think I remember him saying that he loved me but I really never knew him. He left us when I was little and died suddenly in a vehicle accident when I was twelve.
David Mitchell writes: "When a parent dies, a filing cabinet full of all the fascinating stuff also ceases to exist. I never imagined how hungry I'd be one day to look inside it."
What was in that filing cabinet called my dad? For most of my years, loss is all that registered in this little daddy-less heart. It spurred me on with a quest for a father that eventually led me to love God, the only perfect Father, while questions about my own worth plagued me. But now, with a healed and seasoned view of myself and my dad, wouldn't it be great to be able to ask him some questions?
- Just who were you, dad?
- What were you most proud of in your life?
- What were you afraid of?
- What got you up every morning?
- What do you wish you would have done differently?
- What did you love about me?
There would be a ton more questions once I got started but perhaps a few answers could have alleviated a lifetime of wondering...
I was close to my mother, spending many hours talking with her, eager to glean just a bit of her wisdom. A weekend home from college would be spent sitting at the dining room table telling her about how I felt about whatever was on my mind at the time. Wholehearted and sincere, she demonstrated, over many cups of tea, the value of quiet conversation, faith, love and forgiveness.
Later, as a mother with my own young children, driving away from Sunday afternoon visits with other relatives, I often found myself disappointed in the communication, void of feelings or curiosity, lacking of wanting to know or be known. Talk of doctor visits, other relatives or political opinion left me empty. Even today I encourage our own adult kids to engage in meaningful talk around the table, perhaps for this very reason. Words matter, I tell them. Speak them. Write them. Just get them out. Words can change a life. Get them out before it is too late.
On Father's Day, most of us think about our dads. I always remember mine but the memories are so few. I dream of the chance to hug him and talk to him in ways I never could when I was little.
Those of you who have dads and those of you who have children, please find the courage to open yourself to meaningful conversation this weekend. You just never know about tomorrow. You just never know.