A Ritual for my Father
A Tree for My Father
On the Anniversary of My Father's Death
As I write these words, near Mothers Day 1995, I am struck
by how differently we in this culture feel about our mothers
compared to our fathers. I grieve over how little we honor our
dads on Fathers Day compared to how attentively and lovingly
we honor our moms on Mothers Day. In 1990, 145 million Mothers
Day cards were sold and only 90 million Fathers Day cards.
More long distance calls are made on Mothers Day than on
any other day of the year, and yet, it is relativelxy easy to get
through to dad by phone on Fathers Day, if one cares to
try. I am not saying that our mothers do not deserve our attention,
affection, and regard, but do our fathers deserve so much less?
We live in a society without a positive image of the father or
of men in general for that matter. Most of what we read, hear,
and see in the media concerns the immature or shadow
father who will not pay child support, who is absent, who is a
workaholic, who is unfaithful, who is a wife batterer, who is
an alcoholic or drug addict, or who abuses or molests his children.
It is as if we have collectively come to believe that all that
is male or masculine including fathers is ridiculous, toxic, or
evil. Rarely do we hear stories about the sacrifices of fathers,
the teaching of fathers, the affection of fathers, or the devotion
and loyalty of fathers. Surely most fathers try to father well,
but in our society today it is difficult to know what it means
to be a good father and even more difficult to be one with all
the economic, social, and emotional pressures that challenge most
men who are fathers.
The Other Father
The Fathers I Found in the Woods
Tributes to Our Fathers
This father wound cuts deep into our souls as daughters
and sons during childrhood and later in adulthood. And what of
the father, how does he feel when his children call home only
on Mothers Day, but not on Fathers Day, or when mom
receives a card on Mothers Day and he does not get one on
Fathers Day. How does the father feel when society at large
condemns males and masculinity? How does he feel about the lack
of acknowledgment of those men who are healthy, mature, and loving?
How does he feel when those men who father well are not honored?
While most of us as sons and daughters have a father wound,
but we also probably have wounded fathers. If the father
is wounded, if he feels pain, grief, or even anger, how can he
express it, with whom can the father share his wound? If
your father is anything like mine, usually, no one.
|A Dad Thing
The thin brass nozzle
now stained green
is the one that watered
my dad's gatrden.
with a drip-like leak,
I have no call
to put a washer in
to keep my meaty hands dry.
He is dead and I can water
any damn way I please.
As the patriarchy in America crumbles and its power over us erodes;
we are in danger of falsely identifying all that is male or masculine
with the undeniable abuses of patriarchal power and privilege.
I believe we must reject the abuses of the patriarchy with its
sexism and male chauvinism. However, I also believe we must comb
the smoldering ashes of the destructive patriarchal fires for
the positive aspects of fathering, of men, and of masculinity
that are there to be salvaged and recycled. Not doing so leads
to absurd claims like those who maintain that to strengthen men
and masculinity is to necessarily demean and endanger women, children,
and the planet. I ask you, who will embody the principles and
character we need to confront the immature and shadow aspects
of the patriarchal system if not empowered men and women? To this
end, strong, mature, and courageous men are a generative gift
to us all.
|Other Men's Stories:
December 4, 1984
My Father's Hand
Dad and Apple Pie
A Ritual for my Father
This year my father turned 80 years old and I, his son, will be
46 just a few days after Fathers Day 1995. I am his first
born and I have been with him over half of his life. Like most
fathers and sons, our relationship has had its ups and downs.
During childhood I can remember having mixed feelings about him.
He was at times tender, nurturent, and patient and at other times
demanding, critical, and angry. I felt cared for by him and he
taught me a great deal about work, about ideas, and about life.
Unfortunately, he also hurt me when he fought with my mother,
when he drank too much, and when he was abusive in his attempts
to teach and to discipline. As a result, I both loved and hated
him as a boy. However, no matter what the quality of our relationship
at a given time, I always felt bonded to him whether I liked it
Since my middle thirties, we have come closer together, but in
sharing the ordeal of the death of my brother and in sharing our
grief over the death of his wife, my mother; we are now closer
than ever. There is something about grief that breaks the heart
open and allows greater love for those who remain. He is capable
and willing to share his love for me and I am willing to love
him as he is and to forgive him for all that is past. I
also have asked and received his forgiveness for all that I did
to hurt him and my mother for what I perceived as their neglect
or abuse of me when I was a boy. One thing I will always be grateful
for is his loyalty. Now matter what stupid and destructive things
I did in my angry acting out, he always stood by me and never
lost faith in me.
On Saturday mornings we carried the acrid-scented lengths
of copper pipe to his pickup in the Supply lot.
My father bought a bag of fittings, elbows and t-joints,
a yard of emery paper, flux and solder. At the site
I polished the inside surface of the female ends, holding
in my mind a vague image of a different coupling,
cut the pipe to his order and laid the pieces out.
He worked with pencil, chalk, a snap-line
and scraps of paper, or just wrote on the two-by-fours
through which the joined pipes would run.
Numbers he spoke mostly to himself took shape;
lighting a cigarette, he soldered the joints, wiping up
the drip of silvered metal because he wanted his work
always to be clean.
Our work together was our time together.
We ate our lunch beneath the branches of the copper tree
rising from the basement of a house without walls.
I melted down chunks of lead in an iron basin
over the roaring propane tank to seal the heavy junctures
of the sewage pipes, helped him lift into trenches
the cold terra cotta and the galvanized steel.
He taught me the correct way to cut a pipe and clean it,
how to handle the heavy ladle of hot lead.
I passed by heart
the first test of water running in the pipes
and memorized the necessity of his skill and labor
on those chilly mornings, of making ends meet.
This poem was submitted to us at the suggestion of Robert Bly.
As we approach this Fathers Day 1995 I have been asking
myself how can I honor my father? In my musing about this, I have
come up with six things I am either already doing or intend to
1. Give my relationship with him consideration and attention.
I am giving renewed attention to my boyhood and to the father
of my youth. I am reliving all those father stories I told at
mens gatherings in the context of the father stories I
heard from other men. Finally, I am trying to look honestly at
the relationship he and I have today.
2. Remember and name the wounds I received from him as a boy.
I am paying special attention to those experiences with my father
that were the most frightening, painful, and disappointing. Michael
Meade has said that where the curse of my father wounds me most
deeply, is a place in me, as his son, that was longing for a
blessing. I want to look at those wounds again and better understand
why they hurt me so much. I am gradually shifting my attitude
from the father wound inflicted upon me as a boy, to the chosen
wound that I am responsible for as a man. The disabilities and
vulnerabilities of those wounds are mine, not his. I am trying
to carry them well.
3. Try to walk a mile in his shoes by imaging what life and
fatherhood have been like for him. My dad has told me many
stories of his childhood, of his life as a adult before he married
my mother, and of the early years of their marriage. I have always
loved those stories. This year I will revisit those stories and
ask him to tell me some of them again. I will try to identify
with his life, his ordeals and joys, and his views of how a man
is suppose to live and to father.
4. Begin to see the blessings hidden deep in my father wound,
to forgive him, and express my gratitude for being his son.
Each year I harvest more and more blessing from those places
where I felt cursed by my father in my youth. I now know that
none of these wounds was malicious although this is not true
of everyones father wound. Each year I also see how much
we are alike and how many of his qualities I want to emulate
or even absorb from the marrow of my bones.
5. To acknowledge him more this year on Fathers Day than
ever before. I will send him a card, but this year I will
also write him a letter. I will call him on Fathers Day
and keep on talking beyond the impasses and awkward moments until
I am satisfied that we have really made contact. Finally, I am
committed to continue to make greater efforts all year long,
not just on Fathers Day, to keep in touch with him, to seek
his advice and counsel, and to offer him any support he may need
as his life nears its final act.
6. To join with men, women, and children in a public ceremony
honoring our fathers and spirit of fathering in all men.
I am helping to coordinate and will attend a Fathers Day
gathering to be held in Seattle.
In 1991, a man from the New York Mens Council named Harvey
Rosenberg had the vision for a national honoring of fathers in
a ritual he called, Drums Across America. The first
of these nationally coordinated events took place in several cities
throughout the United States on June 16, 1991. A second Fathers
Day gathering was held in Seattle in June 1992 and possibly other
cities, although we in Seattle did not coordinate our efforts
that year with other communities. In 1993, Seattle M.E.N. sponsored
Daniel Bayes Deardoff in a Fathers Day concert called Finding
The Father. This year, we at Seattle M.E.N. are sponsoring
a local Fathers Day celebration on Sunday, June 15th.
| My Dad's Hands
Brown, strong, and clean
My dad's hands
Bring babies into the world,
Feeling in the dark for pain and growth:
Slap new life awake
Veined, rough, and chapped
My dad's hands
Pour scotch and sodas
Reaching for medication of old pains:
Hold new life away.
Quick, arrogant, and angry
My dad's hands
Grab and frighten me
Shaking me into fear:
New life withdraws.
Silent, firm, and soft
My dad's hands
Touching pain, inviting growth:
Respect for life between men.
Purple, cracked, and swollen
My dad's hands
Move slowly now
Trying to hold what can't be held:
Life, love, and loosing.
His hands support and protect
Sustaining life. In my
Father's hands l can risk
Nothing lost in loving life.
It is particularly fitting that a Fathers Day celebration
be held in Seattle, Washington because the idea to create a day
honoring fathers began in Washington. A Spokane woman by the name
of Sonora Smart Dodd originated the idea for Fathers Day
while listening to Mothers Day sermon in 1909. She had been
raised by her father, Henry Jackson Smart, after her mother died.
It was her father that made all the parental sacrifices and was,
in the eyes his daughter, a courageous, selfless, and loving man.
Sonoras father was born in June, so she chose June 19, 1910
to hold the first Fathers Day celebration in Spokane, Washington.
In 1926, a National Fathers Day Committee was formed in
New York City. While Mothers Day was recognized by a Joint
Resolution of Congress in 1914, the same honor wasnt given
by the congress to fathers until 1956. In 1972, President Richard
Nixon established a permanent national observance of Fathers
Day to be held on the third Sunday of June. So Fathers Day
was born from the grief and gratitude of a daughter who thought
that her father and other good fathers should be honored with
a special day just like we honor mothers on Mothers Day.
How will you honor your father on this Fathers Day? What
obstacles do you face in order to be able to honor him? I believe
that working with our father wounds and with our wounded fathers
is a necessary part of our psychological growth because our relationship
with him like that with our mothers has been internalized. As
Robert Bly has said, there is a room inside where our fathers
live. What does your fathers room look like? Who is the
father inside who lives there? What is quality of your relationship
with this inner father?
For better or for worse, our fathers live inside us as our first
image of men and of the masculine. Our inner relationship with
our father will persist for the rest of our lives whatever the
nature of our social relationship with him. It will influence
our sense of identity, our intimate relationships, and all our
relationships with men especially those in positions of power
and authority . I feel, when we can honor our fathers, we can
more deeply honor ourselves. So the act of honoring our fathers
may be as important and healing for us as it is for him.
Beyond the influence we feel within by honoring our fathers, if
we chose to honor him in some way that he can perceive, it may
be a blessing to him and perhaps an answer to ancient desire that
he and other fathers have felt. In a poem by Robert Bly called
Finding The Father there is an image of being called
by your body to search for your father who is longing for you
and who is waiting for you in a candle lit room to come to him
and to know him. When I first heard Robert read this poem, I wept
and I began a long journey to find my father, inside and
Many men and some women have helped me in my journey to find my
father. Now I come to him, I honor him and love him and in doing
so I give him food for his soul and the attention and affection
he deserves. I know he appreciates it. He said recently that when
it comes to our relationship, he feels very sentimental. By that,
I think he means, there is a lot of feeling between us. In some
ways, as I grow older and he enters old age, I feel more like
his brother and hope that if and when I am a father, that his
grandchildren will experience in me, their father, some of the
blessings I have receive from being his son.
Like many, if not most, American men and women, my bonding with
my father has come late in life, in my forties. Even as I have
found my father, I know I will lose him again. It seems my father
love has always been bittersweet with affection mixed with ambivalence
and grief. I have been told that when he is gone, a road will
open for me with new possibilities. I both dread and long for
that day. So I am trying to balance my new found love for him
with a gradual weaning of my dependence on him. I know as a man
I must look to my brothers and mentors for the continued support
and guidance that I need.
George A. Parks, Ph.D. is the former Program Director for Seattle
M.E.N. and is a co-founder and former facilitator
of the Seattle Mens Wisdom Council. George conducts a private
counseling practice specializing in therapy with men and with
couples. He can be reached at (206) 364-1995.
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Honoring our Father, by George A. Parks
The Other Father, by Daniel Deardorff
A Tree for My Father, by Tom Golden
On the Anniversary of My Father's Death, by Tom Golden
The Fathers I Found in the Woods, by Donald Davidson
Men: Our Stories
December 4, 1984, by James Dolan
A Ritual for my Father by Bert H. Hoff
My Father's Hand, by R. "On-the-Road Coyote" Prosapio
Dad and Apple Pie by Keith Artz
Remembering Pops by Daniel Lorey
Pop's Farm, by Dan Frizzell
Father comes into the living room ..., by Chris Aune
My Dad's Hands, by Bill Kelly
Copper Tree, by Ted Gilley
A Dad Thing, by T.A. Delmore
Late for Thanksgiving Dinner, by Thomas R. Smith
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