Weekend Wrinkle: Under My Father’s ‘Chestnut Tree’

Dad and I on vacation several  years (decades?) ago.
Dad and I on vacation several years (decades?) ago.

Dads are like trees.

With Father’s Day around the corner, I was thinking about my dad, and this simile popped into my head.

Dads are the runners-up in the honor department. Moms usually get the glory things like breakfast in bed, flowers, dinner at a nice restaurant, cards, candy, and grimy hugs and kisses. Yes, they deserve it.

What do fathers get? Maybe a card and a hideous tie.

When I think of life with my father, I realize he provided a solidness, a steadfastness that I usually took for granted. I didn’t worry about whether we would have a roof over our heads, food in our bellies, or clothes on our backs. My dad was out there killing himself, sometimes working three jobs, to make sure we were provided for.

And what did he get for it? A lot of times, especially when I was a teenager, all he got was abuse. It is amazing how quickly my father became a genius when I started living on my own. All those things he taught me have paid off big time: you can’t get anywhere without persistence, you’ll always get caught lying, spend less than you make, always put your best effort into things, and think before you act.

My dad has had a huge effect on me and how I look at the world. His influence manifests itself every time I push through and finish something I’m working on, every time I take another torturous step forward when I want to run away.

He never complained about the sacrifices he made for his family. We forget sometimes that our parents are people, too. How much different life must have been for a twenty-something-year-old man before he had his first child! Not that fatherhood was a bad thing, but it probably terrified him.

No matter what life threw at him, Dad was always strong, at least in front of us. He has always been someone we could lean on.

The funny thing is that I look around at other fathers – my husband, my brother, my son-in-law – and I see the same qualities. Biology is not a requisite for fatherliness. The person who provides love, strength, protection, and guidance is a father in my book.

During a recent conversation, my dad said the one thing he regrets is that he didn’t spend enough time with us. He was always working.

“These days, fathers are much more involved in their children’s lives,” he said. “That’s a really good thing.”

So why are fathers like trees? They provide protection (leaves) and food (nuts or fruit). They are always there to lean on. They stay strong despite the storminess of life. They take a lot of abuse. They do it all without fanfare.

My advice? Go out and hug a tree — oops, I mean “father” — today!