I never doubted that my Father loved me. I remember walking with him in the woods of upstate New York when I was 4 years old. The snow was coming down and we came upon a bird feeder with cardinals and chickadees gorging on sunflower seeds. My Father took me closer with his hand on my shoulder whispering to me to take small slow steps so as not to scare them away. He reached down and scooped some of the fallen seeds into my mittened hand and told me to reach it out slowly toward the birds. I was trembling with anticipation as I waited. It took no more than 5 seconds (it felt like 2 hours to a 4 year old) for one of the chickadees to land on my outstretched hand and start pecking away at the seeds. I can still see that tiny bird perched on my maroon, knit mittens but more so I can feel my Father's hand on my shoulder, warm with calm and love and pride.
Later in life, as I started off on the various adventures one confronts (like heading off to college or taking a chance and moving to a foreign country), I always knew that I had someplace safe I could return to if things did not work out. I knew without any doubt that my Father would be there for me if I asked for help. That feeling of security was like having a net under you when you swing out on the trapeze. If you are going to make it to the other side you need to let go and stretch for the other bar. Letting go and taking that risk was easier because of him.
As a father in my own right now I find myself acting in ways I remember him acting when I was a kid. I try to set an example for my children by working hard and showing them that anything worth having is likely to require some effort. My Father taught me that it is not necessary to be the biggest or the smartest or the fastest to succeed. If I work harder than anyone else, I can be just as good.
Growing up I never recognized the challenges my Father (any father) faced: bills to pay, kids to educate, compromises. I admit to thinking at times that it was my parent's choice to have me, I didn't ask to be born! It was his decision so now he should deal with the consequences. Now that I am facing the same issues I see my Father in a different light. I recognize the times when he must have had to make difficult decisions or suppress his own desires for the sake of our family.
The part we play as parents and the effort we put into raising and loving our kids will stay with them their whole lives and affect every major decision they make. My Father gave me the strength to take risks and taught me the meaning of dedication. I can only hope that my own children will be as lucky.
Happy Father's Day Dad, thank you for everything. You are the best.