There’s certainly no distinction to breeding, and so Father’s Day must be intended to celebrate something other than one’s ability to procreate. It began in tragedy, which is maybe the truth of too many things, the world’s way of daring us to bring beauty from ashes. Two hundred and ten fathers erased from their homes, one thousand children orphaned in a day, and all anyone could do — all any of us can ever do — was remember.
So on Father’s Day we remember what our fathers have done for us, and unless we and they are saints, we remember what they have not done for us, and so perhaps on Father’s Day we forgive, too. We forgive, and we pray, those of us who are fathers, that we might be forgiven as well, some day, for the thousand little neglects, and the dozen graver sins. We pray forgiveness for the stretches of time when we are not fully their fathers, when instead we yearn to belong more fully to ourselves, forgetting that you can never love richly and deeply so long as it is yourself you seek.
This morning I huffed atop the rickety elliptical machine in our basement, when Isaac stumbled into the room, bed-headed and bleary-eyed, to tell me happy Father’s Day. Then he set himself to love’s labor, making art and then cleaning the art table, two things he knows will make his father and mother happy. He did it smiling, and with intention, and I saw in his face what it must be to fully enjoy giving oneself to others.
As always, I am humbled by the open-heartedness of these sweating, striving, stinky little boys. I don’t know if I was ever that way, but it is the way I would like to be, and so I stretch toward this goodness I see in them, even as they look to me to learn how they should live.