Please, Don’t Forget the Fathers.
December 24, 2016
It’s been a while, since I’ve been able to find my voice.
In the time that has passed since I last spoke with you, I lost my father.
In the days to come, I’ll have a great deal to say about that, and it is my hope to not stay away so long anymore. I’ve found my voice again, and I’m looking forward to sharing more with you in the year ahead.
But on this Christmas Eve I’d like to take a moment to share something new with you, and ask you a small favor.
Tonight, I’ll get to spend some precious holiday time with my daughter. She’s grown now, and I continue to admire the smart, tough, together, and beautiful young woman she’s become. She’s standing at the Home Plate of Adult Life and handling her at-bats in ways that make me really proud to be her father. Adult life is a known spit-ball thrower, and has a curve ball that can make the best of us whiff hard, but my heart soars when I see Mouse shaking it off, choking up harder on the bat, and going right back to crowding the plate.
I know it may seem odd to say, but even though she will be here, and I’ll have time with her, and I’ll be surrounded by family and loved ones and happy faces, there will be a moment when my heart will remember Christmases past, and I will be briefly overwhelmed with sadness. The sadness will appear quickly, and pass just as quickly. But it will come.
You see, for many years, our holidays together were ruled by a printed sheet of paper. It was a hand typed sheet, titled “Custody Schedule”. Those of you who are (or have been) divorced, will know this paper well. Those of you who are lucky enough to have escaped the statistics, and have kept your lives whole may know of it may benefit from learning a little more about it.
The “Custody Schedule” was pinned to a cork-board in my home office for 15 years. It was declared by the Missouri Family Court that The Giant 50 Foot Rubber Japanese Ex and I would share custody of Mouse, and therefore each and every holiday would be on a “tick / tock” rotation, meaning that for each calendar holiday (Christmas Eve, Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, etc.) I would have Mouse one year, and she would have Mouse the next. Christmas Eve was considered one holiday, while Christmas was a separate and alternate holiday. This meant that one year Mouse would be with me on Christmas Eve, but with her mom on Christmas Day. The next year that arrangement would be reversed.
Over the years there were many lonely Christmas Eves, and lonely Christmas days as well.
Fathers, being men, often don’t let their feelings show. We do the stoic masculine thing and hide it all. Swallow it down and put on the brave face. But you should believe me when I tell you that we miss our children, as much or more than any mother. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
There were some long… lonely holidays for me. There were years when I had decided to take some time off from dating and learn more about who I really was as a person, and what I really wanted from life, and a relationship. There were years when my relationship with my family as a whole were strained. This necessarily meant that there were a few long, lonely, quiet Christmas days by myself, followed by longer, lonelier, quieter Christmas nights.
These times are long gone now, but the memory of them still remain. And this is why, sometime tonight, my heart will remember. Like a long healed scar, that sometimes throbs with the phantom memory of the injury from which they were born.
Tonight, Friends. I’d like to ask you a tiny favor.
If you’re lucky enough to still have a living father, make sure you take a moment tonight to touch them, and tell them you love them, and take a long, careful look a their face, so you can remember it when they are gone, because someday, way sooner than you wish, they will be gone. Know that.
If you, like me, have a father shaped hole in your heart where your dad once was, take a minute to remember him, and the Christmases you shared, and the sound of his voice, and the shape of his face, and the gentle wisdom and the even gentler love of him.
Then, think of the other fathers that you know. Divorced, estranged, or distant, or perhaps even surrounded by family but still… alone.
Find it in your heart to please take a moment to reach out to them. Wish them a Merry Christmas. Tell them that they are in your prayers, or in your heart or just… on your mind.
They will tell you that they are “fine”. That everything is “okay”. That they are “all right”.
They’re not. But… don’t let on.
They need to put on the Brave Front.
They need to be seen as being Strong, and in Control, and Together.
It’s what we do.