Although we e-mail one another several times a week, my friend and I see each other but once a year. Once a year he travels from the southwest to visit his boyhood home and reconnect with his eastern roots. Once a year during his week-long stay we plan an afternoon rendezvous in a small town nestled in the mountains of eastern Pennsylvania.
Time, as always, is at a premium. Only a few hours are allotted for lunch on the wide veranda of the antiquated red-brick inn on the square and a subsequent stroll about town, but the conversation is continuous as we jointly mine each rich vein that runs through the bedrock of our lives.
Each of us has pursued a career in primary care medicine, he in family practice and I in pediatrics. Each of us is married with a family of our own; each of us a father in turn, although his little girl is much younger than my own children. And providentially, this year we meet on Fathers’ Day.
Several years ago, on the eve of another Fathers’ Day, my friend told me that his mother informed him that his father had recently died. My friend was taken aback: his mother had never spoken of his father before; they had separated when my friend was an infant. My friend had been raised in a fatherless household; and he was shocked to learn that the man who was his father had lived his entire life in the same small town, several blocks from where he grew up.
Recently my friend wrote that he was going to spend an afternoon with a nephew—the son of his wife’s sister—to discuss the boy’s decision to enlist in a ROTC program. “I asked him to help me clean up the yard,” my friend said. “It will give us some time together to talk.” The words of a seasoned father.
Mothers bring children into the world; some fathers help to raise them. Fathers are not infallible. Like all men, in our blindness we see through a glass darkly. We beget as we were begotten; we nurture as we have been nurtured. Sometimes it all comes together; sometimes we miss the mark.
But still, in spite of our shortcomings, we strive to love as we are loved.