Americans are like a rich father who wishes he knew how to give his son the hardships that made him rich. Robert Frost
No one would be foolish enough to choose war over peace–in peace, sons bury their fathers, in war fathers bury their sons. Croesus of Lydia
My father and I struggled with each other for years. As a small kid I had polio and dad bargained with God that if he’d spare me from the ill effects he’d quit drinking. I was spared and he kept his promise.
As a teenager and I wouldn’t go along with his commands or suggestions, I was “the most stubborn person” he’d ever known. That, I took as a compliment. When I sang in a band, grew my hair, learned to play guitar and wrote ballads, my father took it as a sign of weakness.
When we worked together in the business he’d founded for 15 years he tried to “train” me by lashing me with harsh words and sharp tones. It didn’t work, I made my own way and trained myself to do the work well.
When he fell ill at about 60 the tables began to turn. He softened and I gained compassion for all he’d been through and was going through. By then I’d learned that life is difficult and had children of my own to teach me greater tolerance.
As he lay dying in the dim light of a winter’s evening, I kissed his cheek and said, “Dad, you’re a wonderful man.” Suddenly he looked up at me, as if coming back from the dead, and said, “Son, you’re a better man than I.”
I was stunned. All these years and I never knew he thought of me in that way. It was the gift of love and affirmation I’d sought for so long, without even knowing it.
How many of us have struggled with a lack of this affirmation from a parent? My father’s ultimate gift was that he didn’t take this message to this grave and I’ve had years to live out the positive consequences of knowing how he really felt.