BOTH DADS ARE DEAD. The father who raised me. The father-in-law who became my friend when I married his daughter.
Father’s Day reminds me of this, which makes it like Memorial Day. A time to remember.
- Dad on the phone 800 miles away, talking me through replacing a starter on my Ford Maverick; when the car started with the first twist of the key, Dad could hear it. He couldn’t see my eyes filling. I didn’t tell him.
- The road trip with Dad-in-law to visit his family in the Great Northwest, half a continent away. When a rafting vender at Glacier National Park asked us if we wanted to take a run down the river, I joked that my father-in-law was a little too old for that. He whipped out his wallet and bought us two tickets. Retired military guys are like that.
It’s stuff like this I remember on Father’s Day.
When Dad was alive I always wondered what to do for him on Father’s Day—especially after I moved away from home. Homemade cards, sometimes. Phone calls, always. Mom said that’s what he wanted most. Just to hear my voice.
I thought about that this week.
I sent my kids and kids-in-law an email.
Slightly edited for the public here, it went something like this:
Just a heads up. Don’t get me anything for Father’s Day.
If you can, touch base with a phone call or a personal appearance, which is all the better.
I never knew what to get my dad. And as it turned out, he didn’t want anything he could hold in his hand. But I know he loved hearing from me.
I got Dad’s genes.
So instead of getting me a gift or a card, think of Father’s Day as my gift to you: the gift, of which, is freedom from having to get a gift. So when Father’s Day approaches, one stressor for you will be gone. Seriously. So scratch that off your to-do list. It’s a to-don’t.
Here’s what I’m imagining.
When you realize Father’s Day is coming, you may say, “Oh, crap [or some variation thereof], I need to get Dad a card.” Then you remember this email and you say, “Oh, right, I don’t need to get him anything. Score.”
And you’ll feel relieved. That moment of relief is my gift to you every Father’s Day forever.
This no-gift thing goes until I die. After that, figure it out.
I love you both. I’m the lucky one. I’ve always known that.
As for my add-on daughter and son, they’ve got their own dads. But I hope they can think of me as their backup, and as at least somewhat fatherly.
Add-on daughter: regular hug.
Add-on son: guy hug.
I’m a lucky soul to get to walk through life alongside the likes of you: Mom, two kids, two add-ons, along with four dogs and counting.
I never wanted dogs. But one of the good things about them is the reassurance I find in knowing that whenever crap happens, I’ll have a poop bag in my pocket.
I’ve got three wadded up in there now. You gotta have them when you walk the dog. And the Good Lord knows I walk dogs.
A card from my daughter
My daughter sent me a Father’s Day card anyhow. I got it yesterday. She wrote, “Too bad, I got you a card before you sent your email. You know I’m not a last-minute or ‘Oh crap I forgot to get a gift’ kind of a girl.”
She said nice things about me.
Then came a little PS:
“I’ll still always be a Miller.”
A pulse of warmth rushed through me when I read that. It felt like an extra surge of blood pumping from my heart. It wasn’t just a sense of the spirit. I felt it on my skin.
I think I know why that particular sentence could do that to me.
Of all the things my daughter could say to me on this first Father’s Day after her wedding, I’m hard-pressed to think of anything more heartening to hear than, “I’ll always be your daughter.” That’s how I translated her PS.
I figure I got it right. And I’m pretty sure the boy feels the same. He not only carries the Miller name on his driver’s license, he’s got my middle name, too. He’ll always be my son.
Yes, this road I’m on is a good road to travel. I like the company.
A Bible verse for the road
As I searched for a Bible verse to express my gratitude, I came upon this surprise:
“The godly always give generous loans to others,
and their children are a blessing” (Psalm 37:26).
So it was and so it will be that any soul who would be a father will also be a banker.
Happy Father’s Day to dads everywhere.
I should end there, but I’m thinking of men who
- were dads
- would have been dads if they could
- feel like they are rotten dads.
I will be praying that for every “was a dad,” “would have been a dad,” “rotten dad” reading this that God will send someone into your Father’s Day with a word of comfort and encouragement and honest-to-goodness blessing that makes your heart jump.
Father of Us All, make it so.
A little something extra
For a few minutes with my kids.
Very poignant, Stephen. Being a dad is like being a Christian — there is something wrong if we ever feel like we are good enough. The best thing we can do for out kids? Be a blessing in their lives and a wholesome example, witnessed by the life you live.
Stephen M. Miller
Well said, Tom.
Wonderful video. Brought tears.
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks Debbie. I cried first.
Oh my word, Steve! You have me crying like a baby! I miss my daddy.
Stephen M. Miller
Sorry about that Debbie. I miss my dad, too. All the time. I keep telling God that death was a bad idea.
I’m going to share this with my kids for Fathers Day. It’s too good not to! I couldn’t help but feel some sense of regret while watching the video, because some moments in life have passed for all of us that we’ll never get back. No one is perfect, and this is a great reminder to cherish the memories that we do have, and strive to capture as any future moments as possible. Thanks, Steve, for the Father’s Day gift that can keep on giving.
Stephen M. Miller
Ron, you always were a kind kid. I’ll be in Ohio next week. I’ll eat some Barberton chicken just for you.