NEW YORK, June 16, 2013 ― Father’s Day is a beautiful moment to honor the men in this world who have honored their responsibility of taking care of their children and family.
Millions of Americans started their Sunday with a church service and will end it with a lovely dinner to reaffirm for dad how grateful everyone is to have him in their life. But for some of us, those of us whose fathers have left this world too soon, or who have been less than ideal parents, this day can be a reminder of lost relationships.
Some fathers are not absent by choice. They may have passed away unexpectedly, or are serving far from home in the military. Some are absent by choice. Some of us grew up without a father in the home, without a relationship with our fathers. Our relationships may have become strained, or they might have improved to okay. It isn’t easy to grow up with a parent who is absent emotionally, or who has deliberately removed himself from the family.
We can be happy for our friends who have special relationships with their dads, but it can still be painful and hard to accept that our own dads aren’t in our lives. It’s beyond our control, but it still makes us angry and frustrated. And those of us who have a religious upbringing feel a conflict between the commandment to “honor thy father and mother,” when it seems to us that our father doesn’t deserve our honor.
My father is Roman Catholic, and his religion seems to have been an important part of his life and identity. That’s confusing. Why would he choose not to be around? God hasn’t answered that question, and perhaps no answer will every come. He may have been taught by his church to abide by moral standards similar to mine, so he would know that being absent from his daughter’s life is not the right moral choice.
This situation is confusing for many fatherless children and single mothers. Every town and city in the country ― perhaps almost every street and neighborhood ― has people who struggle with this and similar situations. The questions that they raise can never truly be answered. As religion teaches us in other areas, all we can really do in such seemingly impossible situations is accept what is, forgive, and live our own lives as richly and make them as full of love as we can.
On this Father’s Day let’s give a special thank you to the mothers and family members who have stepped up to fill shoes that might have been left empty. I hope that anyone who grew up without a father was lucky enough to, like me, have a special relationship with their mother or uncles or cousins or friends who have helped to ease the pain of a father’s absence. But most importantly, let’s give a special thank you to the truly wonderful fathers with us and departed, who may never know just how important they are in the lives of their children and families. I hope you enjoy your very well-earned day of appreciation.
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