Father’s Day, that annual tribute to dad, is full of confusion. Many children only pay lip service through phone calls or business cards.
Because 70% of American prisoners grew up without a father, and because poets use few words to get to the heart of things, they encourage brief, handwritten communication with all parents, whether or not they live with you, whether or not they live with you. So three poets from San Luis Obispo, California added Write to Your Father Day to the US calendar of national holidays.
“Okay,” you might ask, “what do I write to my dad? ‘I love you’ would be a lie and the truth would just hurt him.”
One of the poets replies “Just write and ask your father what he does or did that is
1. More pleasant,
3. The most exciting and
4. More satisfying.
Don’t wait for an answer. If you don’t know where it is, write your answer as you imagine it. Repeat the question each year, adding it briefly whenever you like.
There will be results. Risk them.”
HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOUR FATHER?
Take the following survey to see where you fall on the scale. “How well do you know your father on a scale of one to ten, with one for ‘Who?’ and ten for ‘very good’?”
Who?1___2___3___4___5___6___7___8___9___10 Very good
In a survey of 100 random adults,
11 thing 10, 7 thing 9, 15 thing 8, 12 thing 7, 3 thing 6, 3 thing 5, 17 thing 4, 9 thing 3, 13 thing 2, 10 thing 1
The younger the respondent, the more likely they are to ask, “Which father?”
One comment, typical of many, came by email. One adult son wrote: “Both my biological father and stepfather left this earth. And I never knew either of them. They were troubled men all their lives and suffered from John Wayne syndrome.”
Another: “What an interesting question. I haven’t met my father or father-in-law despite years with them.”
“National Write Your Father Day,” a week before Father’s Day, encourages an end to silent suffering, John Wayne syndromes, bitterness, and loneliness.
Writing letters to parents, whether or not they are alive, whether or not there is a known address, changes the writer for the better. And delivered letters change parents.
Here’s one that came by email. This writer did not ask his father the suggested questions. Since he was one of the few who had a number ten on the scale, he felt that he knew the answers. However, he regrets what happened when he wrote to his long-dead father:
How’s the weather down there? I know it must be very hot this time of year. Someone asked me how well I know my father. I know you well enough to know that if they have an air conditioning dealership there, then you have full distribution rights and now you’ve probably cornered the ice cream market as well.
And that’s good, dad; I know you had a great time on earth, especially during the time you and I were alive simultaneously. I know it wasn’t easy being the blind black sheep of a Mississippi plantation-owning family. I guess if anything confused me growing up, it was how you could have two opposing views on things like skin color.
I must tell you that I have done most of the things you tried to teach me not to do, most of which you were doing too, but you would never admit it, being a hypocrite’s hypocrite in a land of hypocritical champions. That’s one of the few things you told me not to do that I’ve been relatively successful at.
I’m sorry it took me so long to write. If the poets had come up with their holiday “Write to your father” earlier, I would have written to you earlier.
I hope you’re okay down there. I know it’s probably too hot for you to throw those tantrums you used to throw when I displayed my extreme absent-mindedness. I haven’t improved anything by the way. Remember how you used to call me all those names wrapped in epithets when I forgot something?
Well, I’ll tell you something, dad. If you can forgive my distraction, I’ll forgive your tantrums. Let’s call it even. I love you as much as you loved me, dad, and you know that’s more than zero.
I wish you a hell of a time, your son”
When a son knows that his father’s love is more than zero, he knows something truly significant no matter how late he discovers it. When we all recognize the role of our parents in our subconscious thoughts about ourselves, we gain more control of our lives.
Help spread the word: Write to Dad Day is one week before Father’s Day. In 2006 it will be June 11.
The more you know your father, the better you know yourself.