COMMENTARY 987.3: Appreciating a Parent’s Love

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.

Comments 5

  1. Thank you for putting your emotions into words, and for giving us men (fathers and sons) insight into our own feelings. My father died in 2000, and thankfully in his last few years I had several opportunities to express my own gratitude and appreciation – but there were 25 plus years between my teens and the end of his life that I took my father completely for granted, because, as you said, it was so easy to “overweigh our parents’ shortcomings, underweigh their virtues, and undervalue their love.” I have 3 adult sons who now have families of their own in far-away states, but for whatever reasons, I have been (involuntarily) estranged from them, completely ostracized. I was an involved parent, helping with homework, never missing a back to school night or a program at school or a sporting event they were playing in, yet today I am treated as if I never existed, as if all the love and devotion and sacrifices I gladly made for them never happened. I was certainly not perfect, but Lord knows I tried to be the best father I possibly could! I hope someday, for their own peace of mind, they have the same opportunity to reconcile with me, their father, the way I did with my own father.

    1. Ran, that sounds very Sad, and I know its easy to say, but maybe make another attempt to meet up with them, or even one at a time. I can associate with Michaels words , but in my case just felt 100% certain for as long as I remember that my mam and dad loved me totally. In my adult years , I was also certain that they were very proud of me…26 years left this part of world, but their spirit lives on in me. best of luck with re-connecting with your family.

  2. so much from just two words, only seven letters – thank you very much for such a moving, meaningful & inspirational message

  3. Hi Michael:

    Very nice. Thank you.

    My Dad was the prototypical World War II veteran generation man who didn’t say “I love you” out loud, at least not in my hearing. If he said it to my Mom, he did so in private. I knew he loved me and all of us, however. Like so many of his age-peers, he “said” he loved us by providing us with a good home, food, clothing, possessions, education, etc., by working two jobs so we would have everything we needed and much of what we wanted, as well.

    My Dad didn’t need us to, nor did he expect us to, say that we loved him out loud, either. He never told us, but we knew that we should “say” I love you by using, enjoying, sharing, caring for, learning with, learning by, and living by and through, that which he had lovingly provided without ever claiming credit for having done so. He knew what he did. We knew what he did. He knew why he did it. We knew why he did it. And that was that.

    My Dad did expect us to use to the fullest that what God had given us. From an early age, my Dad called me “Doc,” which was his way of letting me know that he knew God had given me much and that much was expected of me in turn, both by God and by him. He never pushed me or forced me in any particular direction, however, leaving my direction to God and to those gifts I had been given. He expected me to act, accomplish, and succeed in exactly the ways I did. Without saying anything, my Dad got out of the way and let me do them. That is how he said “I love you.”

    My Dad did not get to hear me say “I love you” to him, either, unfortunately. He had been given 3 months to live due to liver cancer, in 2000. With some help from an experimental medication trial (of, ironically, the infamous drug Thalidomide), he stretched that time to almost a year-and-a-half. When I visited him, we played golf and talked in a relaxed and open way that we had never talked before. I was happy that he was happy on the outside. We had never seen this side of him. But, we still never exchanged “I love you”s, although I thought we would get there. I wouldn’t make it.

    My Dad quickly got sick and fell into a coma in early September, 2001. He was in a hospital in Manhattan on the morning of September 11, and my Mom later said, simply, that she was so glad that he was in a coma as she watched the Towers out the hospital window. His Purple Heart wound at age 19 from action in France after D-Day (that he never spoke about), his months of hospitalization in England, and his return to his unit “in time” for what became the Battle of the Bulge, later in 1944, had earned him to the right remain in his coma and not be forced to see and need to try to understand the 9/11 attacks and their aftermath. He deserved the “pass” he got on the event that would change the world he would never need to know. His unspoken, loving work for those of us who made up his world was now done.

    My Dad came out of the coma several days later, although his communication was severely limited. The doctors stated that his time was short. Traffic in and out of Manhattan remained severely restricted, but, since my Dad had been a Volunteer Fireman on Long Island for 40 years, the fire company’s ambulance was allowed in to pick him up and transport him home to the house he had lived in for 51 years, which is exactly two blocks down the side street from the house he had been born in 77 years earlier. My brothers were able to push him around his green back yard to look at his flowers and trees one last time. My Mom said he had a broad smile on his face the entire time. This was his place, where he had lived his life, and these were his people. Except, I couldn’t get there. New York was, for all intents and purposes, closed to outsiders and visitors. I could not drive across Staten Island, Manhattan, nor most of the Bronx. Maybe I could have reached Long Island from Connecticut or Westchester County, but I thought I could wait until things eased up. I did not reach my Dad to tell him I love him in person.

    My Dad passed away at home, in his own bed, on September 17, 2001. I love you, Dad.

    My Dad knows.

    Doc

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