There are a lot of young guys around the world that don’t get a chance to grow up with a father. And because of that, may lack the knowledge of what “being a man” is. At the same time, there are young men growing up that have a father at their disposal and still don’t get valuable life lessons. It’s a shame.
My father died when I was 18 years old during my senior year at high school. He had a blood clot pass in his lung. I remember the day vividly, being woken up at a friend’s house the night after my band played in some far off place. It was a beautiful, sunny, Sunday morning and I remember seeing my family members’ faces as I walked into the hospital. No one really said anything to me but I could hear from their expressions,
“Everything will be OK, bud.”
What happened next is a blur still to this day. I had to deal with the public viewing of my dead father, helping bury him at the funeral, a 21 gun salute, “becoming the man of the house” (or so all my relatives said), and appeasing my weakened mom in the process.
What happened in the next 3 years was something that I choose to describe as being lost. I entered a phase in my life where I was in a semi-touring, semi-serious band and had a terrible outlook on life. I had a problem with everything; from society to myself. I didn’t have any real friends or relationships and just “faked” my way through. I made a ton of terrible decisions, worked a crappy job and was looked down upon by my most of my family because of those terrible decisions.
It was only until I decided to make a drastic change in my life that I could make up for this lost time. Some people go 20 or 30 years without having a bottom in their lives and one day look back and see the wreckage of their past. Luckily, my bottom was at 21. I’ve come to accept this and liken it to what Robert Frost wrote,
“… the best way out is always through.”
He did his best
After my period of being lost, I got very angry at my father for not being what I thought that he should have been in my life. Why did he never teach me to build a fire? Go camping? Teach me other “manly” stuff that every father teaches their son, right?
It took me a while to make my way through the five stages of grief. I was at the anger stage.
After talking to someone that had some more experience with death, life, and resentments I came to realize this: my father did the best he could with the tools that he had to work with. My dad never laid a hand on me or my mom, was at all of my opening nights at the theater when I was young and in plays, took me fishing (when I wasn’t being stubborn and wanted to go), wanted the absolute best for me and my mom, and later in life, indirectly taught me what it is to be a man.
And for that, I can overlook the not teaching me “how to build a fire thing”.
Learning from mistakes
So, what does this have to do with Father’s Day? Other than this post being something that I needed to write, accepting my father for who he was has enabled me to become the man that I truly want to be because of my learning from his mistakes.
Would you touch a hot stove right now? I have a feeling that if you have touched a hot stove in the past and remember the pain of being burnt, you won’t do it. It’s the same idea of learning how to be a man from my father.
If the old man before me did things that were right, then hopefully I pick up those traits. And if he did things that were wrong, I sure as hell need to learn not to do those things. Learning from my dad’s mistakes has helped me develop my own, upgraded “set of tools” that I can use to do my best in life.
My dad was one of the greatest teachers I have ever met and he didn’t even try to be or know that he was. There are so many things that I have accomplished since his death that I wish I could share with him. That is the one thing that still chokes me up to this day. But, allowing to let my father live through me, I know that he is with me every step of the way; even when I’m stubborn and don’t want to go fishing.
So, on this Father’s Day, make sure that you understand that your dad does the best he can with the tools that he has. It’s not a father’s job to teach you how to build a fire. It’s your job to learn from him, develop your life’s tools to do your best, and live the life that you want to live.
Chris Smith is a developer, writer, tech enthusiast, and husband. He studies MIS and Computer Science at Penn State Behrend. Chris is also interested in personal productivity and creativity and how to utilize technology to get more things done. Check out his tech writing at androinica.com where he writes about Android.