I was talking to a friend who will be celebrating his first Father's Day this weekend, and joked that he'll be inducted into the world of ugly ties, silly mugs and a thorough collection of World's Greatest Dad collectibles. As ridiculous as a lot of those on-the-nose gifts are, I can see why dads everywhere treasure such things that oppose the logic that not everyone can possibly be the greatest Dad in the world -- these tokens of course represent something bigger and more significant, as they celebrate a new and crucial facet of their life.
I don't think of my father as just "Dad." Granted, I'm an adult now, and I certainly thought of him as "just Dad" for many years when he was doing the, "Not under my roof!" bit. But I think a few years of being on my own in the grownup world has helped recognize the fact that a father can and should be many things, even to their own children. My father has always been a mindful person. He likes good times with friends, but I never doubted there were always things running through his mind. He's principled to a fault and a memory like an elephant. He's got a sentimental heart, but he keeps it well-guarded. He has a sense of permanence about him, that while some things fall away, landmarks should remain. All these things built the person he is today. I don't think he ever defined himself solely as a father, as he has been many things over his lifetime -- athlete, coach, engineer, traveler and all-around mischief-maker. I look through old photos of him, before he really found his place in the world -- as a toddler, holding a football and wearing a helmet, sitting in his mother's barbershop. I wonder about the things he longed for the future to bring, and what his family wished for him. Before he was a father, he was a son, inheriting all the good intentions of his own parents.
Perhaps it takes looking through the lens of maturity to see it, or maybe it takes seeing friends wear the new mantle of parenthood, but there is something profound about accepting this degree of accountability. It's a whole new aspect of their life, but it's one that guarantees a legacy, which I think fatherhood seems to have that appeal. While mothers tend to nurture, being the force that brings the life into this world, fathers are so often are the architects, charting the course of that life. Their children will carry all their hopes and dreams, and put their own paths into motion. There's no handprint-in-clay trivet that will find its way into my dad's life this year, but there's acknowledgement in the fact that for as much as he carries me around every day in his thoughts and concerns, I carry so much of him with me, which are the building blocks of the life's road I'm constructing ahead of me. Happy Father's Day, Dad.
Jaunty Fine Print: photo from family album - likely taken by my grandmother, Sumika Sakaki