Yesterday was Father’s Day, and I had a special treat. I gathered with my middle son, who a father, my father-in-law, and two brothers-in-law who are also fathers. A special meal was prepared, and we sat around and talked about life. There were no special activities, no program, just gathering around life-giving food in the context of family. Fatherhood hardly has meaning outside family. Perhaps it was the perfect way to celebrate the day.
Fatherhood does mean family. Our youngest son’s wife is expecting, and when he called last night to wish me a happy Father’s Day, he expressed his surprise as people gave him the same greeting. Being a father is a new idea to him, but all of us who are, know that it quickly worms its way down into the very fabric of our identity. His will be a biological child, as are mine, but I’m sure that even those whose relationship with their children is not by blood still have the same sensation. Fathers are part of families; families are part of societies and it is in society that we live and move and have our being. Parenthood of any kind is an antidote to the alienation of our day.
Fatherhood is history. I just had lunch with my father-in-law, and we made reference to my father who passed six years ago. Our sons are fathers or fathers-to-be, and it won’t be long before their sons become fathers. Parenting of any kind is an antidote to our inclination to forget the past.
Fatherhood is at once permanent and passing. My father will always be my father, even though he is no longer with us. My wife keeps catching me acting like, talking like, responding like my father. The heritage lives on. Even if forgotten, the fact of his heritage will never be erased from the annals of this family tree. At the same time, the years in which I was a young father have given way to my sons being young fathers, whose sons will become fathers and push them into the grandfather slot I now hold. The day will come when I slip away and become part of that building heritage of history, remembered or not. Parenting of any kind is an antidote to the hubris of our day.
Being a father means drinking deeply from the stream of what it means to be human.