June 12, 2014

UN-Father's Day

Fathers, for better and worse, are THE most powerful man-making force on the planet.

On Father's Day, I can't help but think of my dad and his incredible influence in my life. From my childhood through adolescence, my dad was lost in his marriage, was sick, and in the throes of alcoholism. While there were some gifts, too often he treated me horribly and I've been finding my way back ever since.

. . . dad season . . .

As the commercial messages about Father's Day bring fathers and fatherhood into everyone's consciousness, for me that stew pot of memories called "Dad," with it's very mixed bag of confusing emotions, gets seriously stirred up. Even though I know my father was the best dad he was able to be, I'm left feeling the complicated remnants of rage, love, sadness, hopelessness, and a kind of father-hunger driven emptiness at my core.

After years of self-discovery work and digging around in my family history, I've been able to find some true expressions of my dad's fatherly love. Like water in the desert, I treasure those few positive memories. Taken together, they form a small shield I can use to protect myself on Father's Day. At this point in my life, I'm exhausted by both talking and not talking about my dad issues. But when the third Sunday of June approaches each year, I find myself looking forward to the relief on the day after Father's Day when it all goes underground again.

In this dad season, I'm also very much reminded of the many men, adolescent males, and young boys I've come across in my man-making work who don't have any good dad memories at all to use as a defense on Father's Day. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I think of all the really bad dad stories shared across a circle by sobbing guys.

I have heard from countless men, young men, and boys who have never known a dad because he simply wasn't identifiable, because they were adopted at birth, or because of a court ordered separation from their fathers. Then there are all the dads who left during pregnancy, or the dads who were shot in the hood from gang violence. I remember a soft-spoken boy of ten whose initiation name was Steel Heart. He was in the room when his dad killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head. Then there are all the kids whose dads are in jail, or lost to PTSD or substance abuse. I'm just saying, I've heard lots of really bad dad stories.

I always wonder if just the idea of Father's Day has the result of re-wounding these fatherless males. I wonder if the day stirs up their deep, confusing, profound, and very well-defended sense of abandonment and father-loss. For them, again this year, it will be very much an Un-Father's Day.

So on this Father's Day, if you have the good fortune to honor a good dad, count your blessings and don't miss a chance to thank him. However imperfectly he fathered you, he was there and doing the best he could do. He deserves to be thanked and celebrated.

After giving your dad a blessing, take a moment to allow into your heart all those tragically abandoned or under-fathered young guys in the world around you who won't feel those good-dad feelings on Father's Day. Remember that on Father's Day, and every other day of the year, these guys will experience a profound hunger for the blessings that can only come from having a father in your life who cares about you. Remember all the boys and men who, maybe like me, are just hoping all this complicated dad business will pass by soon, go back underground, and that life somehow will get back to a survivable normal on the day after Un-Father's Day.

. . . I believe there is/was a father who loved you.

So on my Un-Father's Day card I'd write:
Blessings on good dads everywhere. Blessings on the dads who in some way checked-out and on the sad legacy they have to live with. And especially, blessings on dad-hungry males everywhere. Buried underneath all the drama and tragedy that kept you and your father apart, I believe there is/was a father who loved you.

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  1. Anonymous6:50 PM

    Earl, Here's and Un-Father's Day Video for you:

  2. George Daranyi9:07 AM

    This is a really, really beautiful, painful, authentic piece of work. Thank you.

    I have held this belief for a while now: every man or boy who finds his way into one of our men's group circles, is longing for a blessing, or "the blessing he never got" from his father. Even men/boys who have had "good dads" in their lives, are in that longing. Our job as initiated men is to find a way to give them that blessing. And, most importantly, our job is to teach them all that ultimately the blessing comes from that part in themselves that they can access, which is the father that lives within them.

    A dear friend of mine taught me this: no matter what kind of a father I had, and no matter what kind of wounding I suffered from him, I must, at some critical point in my healing, growth, recovery, etc. find the place in me that can say, authentically, "thank you for giving me my life." If I can do that, and I must, then it allows some of the burden of the unfinished dad business to be lifted from me.

    Then, we have to deal with mom.

  3. Earl,

    I just got to your post and appreciate your very honest and candid words. Knowing you all these years and we have never discussed that portion of your life you missed out on.

    Now that my father is gone, I choose to forget the bad parts and only remember the good things I got from him. I hope that part never changes.

    I think it is wonderful all the things you are doing with men and boys. Maybe, just maybe, you would not be doing all that good work were your experience different as a child? We'll never know. Just keep doing the good work you are doing. It is needed on a a grand scale, and you are doing a wonderful part in helping to deal with the issues. I thank you for that!



    1. Thanks Mike. Indeed there are gifts in the most challenging life. I have made the most of what I was given. But I can't help but wonder who I would have been if I'd had a loving, engaged father in my life.

  4. I know the feeling, Earl. I feel the same way about my accident. I will always wonder what I would have become. I will wonder that until the day I die.


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