On this Father’s Day, 2008, I’m choosing to honor the memory of my father, Morris Appleman, deceased now for more than 35 years. He was not a perfect man. He was not always an exemplary father. But, like most of us, he did his best. He worked hard, he provided for our family, and as an immigrant he met the many challenges life presented as best he could. I believe that is what most of us attempt to do.
None of us, in fact, ever knows what it might have been like to have lived in households other than our own. We assumed that whatever hand life dealt us was the only hand in the deck. Our defenses worked to help us survive, to keep us on track, though we may have needed to bury hurtful or traumatic events along the way. In the end, however, survive is what most of us do – at least, until we’re older. Then, when we’ve seen more of the world, had more relationships outside our family of origin everything becomes more complicated, more challenging. At least that’s true for those of us who had less than ideal parenting. Yet, as adults, we have the choice to remain victims of dysfunction and/or move through it and beyond.
In times of stress or trauma we do whatever we’re able to do to survive. I don’t think it ever serves us to expect more than that from ourselves or from others. It’s important to remember that most of us do our best with whatever resources we have, and it’s equally important not to carry grudges, not to play the blame game or enter the imaginary world of “if only” or “what ifs.” That assumes we have expectations that won’t ever be met and will only leave us feeling empty and deprived.
I dedicate this, then, to all fathers who have done their best, are doing their best, and may wish to do better. I celebrate you all as I celebrate my father … and I encourage you, as well, to focus on your strengths, develop the areas where you feel you may not be doing all that you would like to be doing, and don’t expect others to do the work for you. Accept them for who they are with their limitations and imperfections. Only then will you be better able to accept yourself and enjoy the life that is yours.
In the spirit of Father’s Day, I encourage anyone reading this BLOG to remember what’s best about your father. Even for those who have good reasons not to have an on-going relationship with a father who may have been physically or verbally abusive, the day will be an easier one for you if you put aside feelings of negativity, if only starting today. Keeping your focus on the pain and all that was harmful will only diminish you and prevent you from living in the present, enjoying whatever there is for you to enjoy.
In the final analysis then, the only person you can ever change is yourself, never anyone else. And, should you opt to do so, it will becomes easier to appreciate and focus on what you have rather than on what you don’t have. Only then are any of us free to count our blessings and breathe with ease.
To all fathers who may be reading this BLOG and who may wish to become better fathers, know that too is possible. With the desire to do so and with good counsel, there is time to create a new chapter, live life in a new and perhaps better way.
I end as I began, expressing my deep gratitude to my father who forever will remain close to my heart… and I wish you all a great day!