Due to varying family circumstances, Father’s Day is not a “one size fits all” holiday. Different individuals greet the day with warmth, melancholy, numbness, or anger.
Father’s Day is an event that no one should ignore, however. The underrated 1948 Disney classic “So Dear To My Heart” contains a song called “It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got,” and that rule applies here.
If your father was cold, distant or abusive, let the problems end with his generation, rather than poisoning your future relationships.
Don’t go archiving your daddy issues, joining pity parties or condemning every human who possesses a Y chromosome.
Spend Father’s Day hanging out with people who have actually known a few good men and (keeping your envy in check) learn to regard your father as an unfortunate aberration.
If you never (or barely) knew your father because he died too young (serving his country in the military, giving his life as a police officer or firefighter, succumbing to disease or accident) start a scrapbook of recollections of those who knew him best. Whether he died heroically or you blame him for his own demise, something good can come from volunteering your time to a veterans organization, the American Heart Association, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a workplace safety campaign or whatever endeavor is most appropriate.
If “papa was a rolling stone” who contributed nothing to you except genetic material, make peace with that fact, try finding his medical history and channel your feelings of abandonment into positive actions by being a surrogate child for a childless couple.
If your relationship with your father is a work in progress, don’t place an overemphasis on the one special day. Bring along that olive branch, but don’t expect a miraculous tearjerker movie turnaround. Make Father’s Day just one more step in your journey of discovery and healing.
If you’re struggling with the burden of caring for aging parents, redouble your efforts to get a little help on Father’s Day, so it is a time for fond memories and not resentment.
If you’re a father, be brutally honest with yourself. Take inventory and decide what to do in the coming year so you’ll really deserve that “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee mug.
If you aspire to being a father someday, keep your eyes and ears open this Father’s Day. Examine fatherhood warts and all. Learn the qualities that bring friction and the qualities that bring accolades, and try to structure your style accordingly.
If you have been blessed with a great father-child relationship, don’t take your father for granted. Put some thought into a gift that suits his personality and interests.
Even if he’s the stoic type, instead of superficial well wishes, confide your hopes and dreams and how he has contributed to them. Don’t put it off. I regret that I passed up a chance to talk to my father the night before his unexpected death, but I take solace in the fact that I had expressed my love for him six months earlier.
Fatherhood has been downgraded because of sperm banks, breadwinner-replacing Great Society welfare checks and online instructions for how to ride a bike — but it’s still alive, and today is a fitting time to pay homage to its past, present, and future contributions to society.
(Danny Tyree’a e-mail address is email@example.com.)