Dad’s matter, or so I have argued. No one can argue without lying that fathers aren’t fundamental and important to the family. Any cursory glance at the statistics of fatherless homes informs you of that.
But what if your dad sucks? You can talk all day about how dads are necessary to the family, or society, or whomever, but what about the guy who had a dad who was emotionally or physically abusive? Is he supposed to sit there and laud a father who treated him poorly?
I struggle with this myself because my father was a bad dad. He treated me and my mom like shit. He was abusive, bullying, belittling, cruel, and mercurial. I have no fond memories of him, and few times I can count that he even attempted to be fatherly. We didn’t play catch. We fished together once, when a friend of his dragged us out. The friend taught me to fish. Dad criticized me for not knowing how to fish. I asked so many times to do things with my dad. By the time I was 10, I just stopped asking. My mom had it just as bad or worse.
To compound things, my father died coming up on a year ago, his birthday is on Father’s Day this year, and I can’t honestly say I miss him. By the attendance at his funeral, few others missed him much.
So, what do I do? Do I honor my dad? Do I speak ill of him? Do I refuse to have a family of my own to ensure I don’t make his mistakes? These are common responses I have heard to divorced parents, and ill relationships with parents.
My response is to learn how to be, and to actually be a better father. In this way, I can not only end his legacy of cruelty, but redeem him. I am his son. I have his genes, or essence, or substance, or whatever, and yet I am not using it as he did. I am improving on it. Call it spite. Say “C’mon, the man gave you life. Show him respect for that.” Call it redeeming him. Call it whatever you want, but my dad’s sin ends with me.
How do I deal with Father’s Day? I’ve got no one to honor, and I have a right to be jaded toward the day. I encourage other men to be good fathers so their sons and daughters will have good reason to honor them, and not only because they honor an abstract concept. I’m not letting my bad experiences change realities and truths I know beyond myself. Neither should you.