For some of us, holidays like Mother’s and Father’s Day are not a very big deal. Even Christmas has become so commercial that much of the joy is gone. This statement is from a guy who was growing his beard so he could play Santa this year.
Holidays seem to have evolved into a way for florists, greeting card companies, and chocolate makers to increase their bottom line.
Still, I’ve developed an attachment to certain holidays because I never celebrated them as a child. Mother’s and Father’s Day was a hard one for me because I loved my parents. I didn’t understand why our religion banned us from showing love to the people we cared about most in the world.
I was too ashamed to tell the teacher and my fellow students that we didn’t celebrate, so I would always sit with the others in the class and create cards and letters for my parents on the special day. The teacher never knew why I cried when I finished. I sobbed because my mom and dad would never see anything I created for them because the trash outside the school is where the carefully crafted gifts were going.
If I showed up at home with a card, I would have been punished. Trying to take the glory away from God by giving it to my parents for one short day was a sin, and sinners died horribly at Armageddon. I had flesh-fraying nightmares because I was so frightened by the disturbing images that they fed into my brain with the literature I read daily.
So in the choice of dying in a rain of fire or giving my mom a card, my poor mother never won.
When I got older and started to make up my own mind about important things, I started testing the waters with holidays. First, I celebrated birthdays. Then I was known to decorate a tree or two on Christmas.
When I finally had kids, I enjoyed celebrating being a parent, even though I still never wished my mom and dad tidings on the days. They knew I loved them year around, but it still would have been nice to make a special effort for them once in a while.
I appreciated the little efforts my kids made on Father’s day. I still appreciate it. The day means a lot to me.
Now that I’ve had a second chance at life, Father’s day has taken on new meaning. I don’t force Zoey to make a big deal out of it. I don’t expect anyone even to acknowledge it.
But the fact is that my family is in the other room cooking a feast for the other fathers in the family and me. The same thing happens on Mother’s Day.
The day has changed from an excuse to get a bunch of cards into a reason for the family to get together and show each other how much love is available. I wish my three boys in the U.S. could be here to break bread with me, but I’ll be a happy man if I can tell each one of them how much I love them.
Life is short. I could complain that my boys don’t really talk to me anymore, but I won’t. My boys are men now and have their own families. I am 8500 miles away and haven’t been present for them for eight years. If they are distant, isn’t that mostly my fault?
But, as I get older, I crave contact from them, even if it’s only a 5-minute chat once a month.
It makes me want to do a better job this second time around with Zoey, and the soon-to-be new baby, Joey.
I was like most parents in that I worked most of the time to support my family. Through the whole of my children’s young life, I worked an abnormal amount of hours to give them all the things that I never had. I wanted them to have a life I only dreamed of. Because I lacked in education, I had to make up for it with sheer hard work and hustle. I made money, but it came at a cost.
Unlike most fathers, I struggled with my mental demons. All my hustle was for nothing because mental illness took me down to size. If I wasn’t around when they were kids, I was too present as the “sick guy” during their teens.
I was always depressed and psychotic. The kids didn’t have a father, they had a patient. I kept the worst from them, but they still saw enough. I’ll never know if they were ashamed, but I know it wasn’t easy for them to have a father like me.
I know they loved me. I know they still love me. But, the fact is for their whole life I was either working, sick, or living on the other side of the world.
I can understand why they are a little distant.
It only makes me want to do a better job this time around. This time, I’m here for Zoey. I am not just present, but I’m a key component for happiness in her life.
I wish I could go back and fix what happened to my boys, but I can’t. It does no good to weep with regret because the fact is they grew up to be great men. They are happy and making their lives the best they can.
All I can do is be here for them if they need me, and try not to expect the world from kids who are doing the best they can not to make the same mistakes their father did.
Boys, if you are reading this, I am proud of you and love you with all my heart. Even if I am on the other side of the world, I’m always here if you need anything. Live your lives. Do better than I did. The best thing you can do with your life is to be happy and fulfilled in whatever you do. I love you.
Father’s Day isn’t about cards and gifts anymore. It’s about family and love. It’s about being together and working together to overcome the obstacles that are in our way. We are still broke. I’m still sick. But now we are working to overcome it together, and that means more than a few sheets of colored paper stuck together with paste.
Happiness is not hearing your kids say, “I love you, Dad,” it’s knowing they do. It’s knowing they are happy and healthy and living their best life.
Yes, Father’s Day is different, but I still love knowing I am someone important.
I am a dad.
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Jason Weiland is a writer, blogger, vlogger, and mental health advocate living a dream life in far-away destinations he only dreamed of as a kid. He talks about difficult issues but has never lost his sense of humor or willingness to understand others and help when he can.
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