Today I was at the shopping mall and I spent a lot of time reading the Father’s Day cards. They all had a special message that in some way or another reflected how I feel about you. Yet as I selected and read, and selected and read again, it occurred to me that not a single card said what I really want to say to you.
You’ll soon be 84 years old, Dad, and you and I will have had 55 Father’s Days together. I haven’t always been with you on Father’s Day nor have I been with you for all of your birthdays. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to be with you. I’ve always been with you in my heart but sometimes life gets in the way.
You know, Dad, there was a time when we were not only separated by the generation gap but completely polarized by it. You stood on one side of the Great Divide and I on the other, father and daughter split apart by age and experience, opinions, hairstyles, cosmetics, clothing, curfews, music, and boys.
The Father-Daughter Duel of ’54 shifted into high gear when you taught me to drive the old Dodge and I decided I would drive the ‘54 Chevy whether you liked it or not. The police officer who escorted me home after you reported the Chevy stolen late one evening was too young to understand father-daughter politics and too old to have much tolerance for a snotty 16 year old. You were so decent about it, Dad, and I think that was probably what made it the worst night of my life.
Our relationship improved immensely when I married a man you liked, and things really turned around when we begin making babies right and left. We didn’t have a television set, you know, and we had to entertain ourselves somehow. I didn’t know what to expect of you and Mom as grandparents but I didn’t have to wait long to find out. Those babies adored you then just as they adore you now. When I see you with all your grandchildren, I know you’ve given them the finest gift a grandparent can give. You’ve given them yourself.
Somewhere along the line, the generation gap evaporated. Age separates us now and little else. We agree on most everything, perhaps because we’ve learned there isn’t much worth disagreeing about. However, I would like to mention that fly fishing isn’t all you’ve cracked it up to be, Dad. You can say what you want about wrist action and stance and blah, blah, blah...
I’ve been happily drifting for a lot of years, Dad, and I didn’t see you getting older.
I suppose I saw us and our relationship as aging together, rather like a fine wine. Numbers never seemed important. But the oddest thing happened last week. I was at a stop sign and I watched as you turned the corner in your car. It didn’t immediately occur to me that it was you because the man driving looked so elderly and fragile behind the wheel of that huge car. It was rather like a slap in the face delivered from out of nowhere. Perhaps I saw your age for the first time that day. Or maybe I saw my own.
Fifty years ago this spring we planted kohlrabi together in a garden in Charles City, Iowa.
I didn’t know then that I would remember that day for the rest of my life. This week, we’ll plant kohlrabi together again, perhaps for the last time but I hope not. I don’t understand why planting kohlrabi with you is so important to me but it is. And the funny thing about it is, well, I don’t know quite how to tell you this, Dad...I don’t even like kohlrabi...but I like planting it with you.
I guess what I’m trying to say, Dad, is what every son and daughter wants to say to their Dad today. Honoring a Father on Father’s Day is about more than a Dad who brings home a paycheck, shares a dinner table, and attends school functions, graduations, and weddings. It isn’t even so much about kohlrabi, ’54 Chevrolets, and fly-fishing. It’s more about unconditionally loving children who are snotty and stubborn, who know everything and won’t listen to anyone. It’s about respect and sharing and acceptance and tolerance and giving and taking. It’s about loving someone more than words can say，and it’s wishing that it never had to end.
I love you, Dad.
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