Dad and I are in the car; it’s our usual morning drive to work (he drops me off en route to his own office) and we’re quietly co-existing. A favourite song of ours comes on the radio, and we start mouthing the words, breaking out into our respective not-altogether-cool-but-who-cares-anyway dance moves while waiting at the traffic light. The chorus comes on, and there’s a full blown performance going on in the car now, much to the amusement of the drivers in the cars flanking us. The red light turns green and Dad and I are off, still singing.
Many of my memories with my father involve car rides; me riding shotgun, music playing on the radio, conversations, but mostly silence. From the days when he used to send me to school when I was seven, to the current day and age, where I’m working, these seemingly innocuous moments have made up a big part of my life. I’ve laughed hard, cried harder, asked for advice, complained about meaningless things, taken selfies, sang songs, had meals, discussed life, and grown closer to my Dad over the years that we have driven around the roads of my country.
I suppose if there is one thing I have to thank my father for, it’s making time and space for me in his life, not just as his daughter, but as his equal as well. For not dismissing my questions, for giving my voice strength and for not belittling me based on my age, or my gender. I’ve never understood how powerful his acceptance has been until recently, when I find myself in situations where I’m having to speak a little louder to be heard, or run a little harder and jump a little higher to “prove” myself. I’ve never had to prove myself to my father. I know I never will. And this is possibly the greatest gift that he’s ever bestowed upon me.
In this time and age, there’s almost a foolish overemphasis on using deliverables as a way to measure one’s self worth. Who you are, seems almost directly correlated to what you can produce, what you have achieved, and what more you can do. It’s easy to get entangled in this matrix, to focus on creating, and producing, and doing, instead of growing, instead of slowing down, instead of working from within. I don’t know if this paradigm is ever going to change. What I do know is that having people who give you perspective on how things should be, instead of how things are, serve as a godsend to align your moral compass to, and help make your life a little easier to deal with.
As I type this, a local radio station is airing a program where it asks its callers to share the one piece of advice they have received from their fathers that remains entrenched in their memories. How would I answer this, I wonder, as I sift through the years of wisdom I’ve gained from my Dad? How can I just pick one piece of advice, when his entire life has been nothing but the best of lessons I could ever have had?
By living his life the only way he knows how, my father has taught me that there is only one way to live, and that is to live well. To do your best in whatever it may be, work endeavours, personal relationships, devotion to faith, even in making mistakes. My father isn’t as much of a preacher as he is just another human being, doing the best that he can at what life has given him. And perhaps, that is why I look up to him so much. His superpower is his humanity, and this very humanness that he wears so lightly around his shoulders, is a constant reminder of how I want to wear my humanity.
As I grow older, I appreciate my father more, not for all the things that he got right (and he’s gotten many things right, and I am very thankful for all of them), but for all the things he didn’t quite get right and how he’s used them as opportunities to make things better for all of us. My father has made mistakes, and he’s proud of them. He’s allowed me to make mistakes, and he’s taught me to take pride in my scars.
“Scars and blemishes are a sign that you’ve lived hard, and that you’ve lived well,” he told me once during a drive. When he wasn’t looking, I quickly typed it into my Notes section on my iPhone, and read it on days when I need to realign my perspectives.
We live in a society that sidelines our fathers in the light of hero-worshipping our mothers. Don’t get me wrong, mothers deserve all of that and more. After all, besides the hefty task of carrying us kids around for a full nine months in their wombs, they spend the rest of their lives carrying us in their hearts. Mothers are incomparable. There’s no doubt about that.
But let’s not forget the role our fathers play. In some families, they remain the sole breadwinners. In some families, they double up as mothers. In some families, perhaps, they have not been on the scene for a while (or from the beginning of time). Their presence, as much as their absence, has probably taught us some valuable things about the way we should (or shouldn’t) lead our lives. And for this, if nothing else, we need to thank and acknowledge their existence.
It is Father’s Day this weekend. Go up to your dad, take him out for a drive, have a conversation with him, both with words and with silence. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll remember this day for years to come.
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