The Lesson I Learned from Dad Once I Was a Mom June 16 2012
My father was a quiet man. That isn’t to say he couldn’t carry a conversation. Maybe a better description is private, not good at expressing the emotional stuff. This doesn’t mean he cared less. He just didn’t show it as well as some.
My dad didn’t talk about himself very much. I was in high school before I learned he went to college on a baseball scholarship. He never discussed how he was married before my mom or how he felt when his youngest brother died of a brain aneurysm when I was three. He kept a lot inside.
A month after father’s day will mark four years since I lost my dad to cancer. As Father’s Day approaches, I think about one of the most important lessons I learned from my father of few words: that sometimes the simplest gestures, the ones you don’t over-think, make the biggest impact on our fathers.
All four of our children are named after a relative who is important to us. We could’ve named them after us, but I guess we figured we have a hard enough time being us, it’s probably best they not have to live up to it, too. So they are named for grandparents and aunts. Hopefully some day they will feel connected to a generation past their parents because of their names.
My only son was born six days before Father’s Day 1999. It was natural to make his middle name that of his grandfather. We didn’t over-think it. We just named him. When my dad walked in the delivery room to meet his red-haired, youngest grandson, he looked surprised and happy when I told him Michael’s full name. Yet, he still didn’t express too much emotion.
My step-mom later told me how happy my dad was that Michael was named after him, which was somewhat typical. I kind of spent my life hearing how my father felt about me from other people. He always told me he loved me, but the gushy in-between stuff wasn’t his strong-suit. And that was okay. I was just glad he was happy.
A couple of days before Father’s Day my dad called. He called specifically to tell me that he didn’t want me to worry about running out and getting him a Father’s Day gift. He told me how happy he was that I named my son after him – and that was the best Father’s Day present he could ever get. Then the usual, “Love you kiddo” and the conversation was over.
I was 29 years old at the time – and I’d given my dad the simplest gift. One I never imagined would mean so much. But it did. Simple, heart-felt. A gesture. Not a thing. Something that moved him to finally say exactly how he felt.
That’s the lesson I learned from my quiet, private father after 29 years of being his daughter.