Fathers & Sons

While being a guest at a dinner I sat next to someone who had a unique lapel pin. It gave rise to the following conversation.

“That’s an interesting lapel pin. I don’t believe that I have ever seen anything quite like it, yet it is vaguely familiar. Is there a story behind it?”

“It was my dad’s”, he replied. “He was career military. When he died I took some of his ribbons and placed them on various pieces of clothing. It helps me remember that he is still with me in some way.” I understood what he meant.

In the aftermath of my own father’s death I have reflected upon the special bond between a fathers and sons. This is true whether a father was a “good”dad or not, present or absent, engaged or distant, biological or adopted … our fathers are a kind of yardstick by which we measure ourselves. Against them we compare ourselves at one level or another; do we measure up, are we doing a better or worse job at traveling the road of manhood?

In his book, Dreams of My Father, a work that I consider to be a sort of spiritual autobiography Barack Obama reflected upon his own relationship with a largely absent father: “Where once I’d felt the need to live up to his expectations, I now felt as if I had to make up for all his mistakes.”

Our fathers are an enigma, a puzzle never fully known or understood yet a forever part of our lives.

I remember going to grief counseling a couple years after my father died. Breakthrough came in the fourth session. I don’t remember exactly how my therapist and I got there or what exactly I said, but he exposed what I had unknowingly been seeking all along, what every man seeks from his father, a blessing. “You know, that was when your father gave you a blessing.”

My circuitous journey in grief had come to an end with that blessing, and with it a sense of peace…of understanding…of acceptance. And that was a glimpse of grace.



3 thoughts on “Fathers & Sons

  1. Jeff Shelton says:

    My father landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. While in Peoria I took his military medals, etc. and had them mounted in a shadow box. It is prominently display in my work area and is a constant reminder of his sacrifice. One day it will be passed on to my son.

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