While window-shopping in New York City, I saw an old gold watch that reminded me of one my father gave me when I graduated from college. It had been engraved with the simple inscription “Love, Dad.” But it was stolen during a burglary years ago, and I hadn’t thought much of it or the inscription since.
I always knew my dad loved me. I took it for granted. He was supposed to. I was his son. I’m always a bit shocked when I run into people who have had a different experience. The truth is, not all dads love their kids, and those who do don’t always express it. I had no idea how lucky I was.
Until I became a father myself, I had no way of understanding the depth and intensity of his feelings and the emotional investment he had in my happiness. I couldn’t imagine how much it must have hurt him when I was cut from my baseball team or dumped by my first girlfriend, or how proud he’d be today seeing me become the kind of father he taught me to be.
I always assumed I loved my dad and he knew it, but the truth is, my love was shallow and unexplored. I never came close to feeling or expressing gratitude for all the ways he made my childhood safe, comfortable, and fun. I wish I had given him that gift.
Of course, my dad wasn’t perfect. He had flaws like everyone else. It’s so easy to overweigh our parents’ shortcomings, underweigh their virtues, and undervalue their love.
What’s not easy is experiencing and expressing gratitude while it still matters.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.