Over the weekend I called my father to wish him a Happy Father’s Day. Almost a decade had passed since the last time I chose to give him a holiday celebratory call. In my protest over those years I celebrated a sports coach, father figures from my community, and I even wrote a letter to my future self. In the letter, I sang high praise to the man I had become by being the opposite of the man who birthed me. The letter was lengthy in pages, but halfway through the first page, the positive remarks drifted from me as a father, into me as an individual. This year I put my pride aside, and with a lump in my throat and I rock in my chest I uttered, “Hey Siri?” Mesmerized by the ROYGBIV spectrum of colors pulsating in the lower portion of my phone screen, I managed to say, “call dad.” The error message saturated in a computerized accent reminded me that his number wasn’t saved under “dad”. Scrolling down in alphabetical order I see his government name and proceed to make the call. Lamenting with THE Father for the opportunity to escape this situation by leaving a voicemail was interrupted. God didn’t answer my prayers. He answered, and after playing three rounds of “Simon Says, Hello”, our conversation shifted into full small talk mode. The loud, booming silence was occasionally interrupted by moments of chatter which caused our 17 minute and 34-second conversation to feel like it had lasted for hours.
*Spoiler alert* for those waiting for the prodigal son/father moment where we spent hours on the phone apologizing and weeping joyously over healed wounds, that isn’t how this story ends. Sorry. I had to break that news to you because at this moment I have no idea how this story ends because I’m currently acting this thing out. Reading through the script making notes here, scratching out there, and wadding up groups of pages for the use of our trashcan basketball three-point contest. None of which are wrong or right, they are just the way life plays out. Understanding the necessity for correction and adjustment are what made me reconsider my cold approach to a man who made a series of mistakes but has a mindset to rectify those wrongs. “Life’s too short…” is the sentiment overtaking the conversation in my post-phone call discussion with myself. I looked myself in the eye and expressed how these hard feelings toward my father could have a negative influence on the process of me raising my future children. So why not begin to forgive? Forgiving doesn’t mean I walk around telling the world, “that’s my dad!” but it does allow me to be at peace with all the past trauma.
There is a difference between a being father and being a dad. A father is someone who has birthed a child. A dad is someone who is actively present in raising the child. Any male can be a father, but only dedicated fathers become dads. I can no longer grieve over the father I didn’t have growing up, because the father I may have now will be able to help me in ways I’ve never imagined. So, as I grow further from my father, I’m growing closer to my dad. Happy Father’s Day!