I grew up in a home in a small town with loving parents and siblings. We took vacations, went hunting, played sports, and ate meals together. Mine was very much the idyllic American childhood.
Along the way to becoming an independent, free-thinking adult, I did a few things that gave my parents their fair share of consternation. I questioned authority and convention. Mom and Dad, I know it was difficult to see me go riding in cars with boys during my teens, rather than staying home to watch Golden Girls reruns (though I am not sorry for and would not give back the good times I had and the lessons I learned growing up).
I know my family does not agree with everything I’ve done over the years. But that is ok, and we are still family . The shared experiences of my childhood bind us to one another; they are formative and meaningful in a way that makes ideological differences seem small and trivial. I spent nine months in Mom’s womb; we lived together in the same house for 18 years. You are my parents and siblings. What is more important than that?
Now comes the painfully poignant part of the message, the part I should skip, revisit tomorrow, or not write at all. I know that my choices have not always made your lives easy. I am sorry for that. I know that you had to stay behind when I moved to other more worldly and liberated places. I’m sorry for that. I know that you have had to deal with the uncomfortable questions, the disingenuous concerns, and the accusing stares. I’m sorry for that too. I am. I wish other people were better than they are, and I am working to make them better.
All of that said, a child’s birthright ought to be the unconditional love and support of his or her parents and siblings. Period. Full stop.
And as hard as it for me to write this, my hometown treats my life like a gossip column and my family treats me like a pariah.
I reviewed and rewrote this message a few times to make sure it did not devolve into a lengthy, vindictive series of anecdotes about how my family has marginalized me, excludes me, and hurts me in the process. Life is sometimes messy, I love my family notwithstanding the way they have treated me, and I simply don’t have enough time or energy for recriminations. I really don’t.
The lesson, the message of hope and redemption I want to express here (maybe my family will see this and be moved), is that the most important thing parents/siblings can do for their children/siblings is to love them unconditionally. The unconditional love of family should be a safe refuge in a rough world, a harbor in the tempest, and a birthright. No matter what your kids does, values, or believes give him or her a hug and say “I love you.”
Happy Father’s Day!