Time passes but the emotion is raw and present. As I travel and talk to those in front of me, especially the men, there is a message there that needs to be shared between us. I think it is about awakening from our slumber and realizing our legacy. It is about strengthening our resolve and being able to stand tall. We’ll do it by reminding each other of who we truly are with words that spring from the heart. The world needs us (men) now, more than ever. To be the rock upon which life is laid. We can be the sustainers of life and walk side by side with woman so that new lessons can be learned about what it means to live. To be able to leave something behind us that is worthy of us and will lay the path for our children. To return to love.
This is my tribute to you, for you must be the most misunderstood figure in history. Not just you, my own father, but all fathers everywhere. Looking back, like we all do, I find myself quietly laughing, a little smile perhaps, or maybe they are really tears of understanding beginning to come out and show themselves. How could you have been so misunderstood? Why did we treat you so badly? You must have held back your own tears, tried to bury your hurt and endeavored to accept your fate. You are the anti-hero of the world.
We wanted you to be the hero, the main character, who was noble, wise and elegant in manners. Who defended us against the unexpected and undesired, and showed us the way forward. We wanted you to shape the world for us, lead us, tell us how to do it ourselves and be there for us when we weren’t so sure. You had to live for us. Didn’t you understand that? Were we unfair? Did we not think how you were going to find your way? Did we worry about if you had found what you were looking for?
What did you think when your dreams evaporated and you were still expected to keep a positive face? Did it really matter to anyone, as you were told and we all knew, that what was important was to maintain appearances? When love disappeared from your life was that what pushed you over the edge and shut you in, to lose yourself in self-pity and remorse?
I think I understand now, God, I am now of the age that you were, when as your son I rejected everything that I saw in you. I was the least understanding of you. I too buried my hurt and looked far afield to find someone who could take your place. It is evident now, it wasn’t then, but then again when are we ever just in our treatment of others when our own pain is too great and too present?
What I was looking for, you couldn’t give me. I think I wanted to know you, to know what it was to be a man, to understand everything in your life. You were the only image I had of the great providers, the warriors, the statesmen, the initiators and the conquerors of history. Who else did I have? Where else was I to find them if not in you? As man, you represented in large measure the forward progress of civilization. But we exacted a high price from you, we stole your freedom to be who you are and wanted to be and said, “Submit, you have no choice.”
It didn’t matter so much that you yourself had such few authentic role models from which to base your life upon. You only saw limitation in your father and he in his. What was that chain of genes passed on to us from generation to generation so unexplainably and incomprehensibly, leaving only false information on what it was to be a man – no love, no caring, don’t show what you are thinking or feeling, just keep going until you can’t bear it anymore. You could not have known what any of us wanted from you; you had no idea how to find what you were looking for. It was a vicious circle – lost love, lost dreams and sons who went the other way.
You know, we could have talked. You could have shared what was there beneath the surface. At least now, in my mid-afternoon of life, I’m not interested in myths and fantasies but rather only humanity – your humanity as a man. You were so maligned at every step of the way; no one had compassion for you. No one tried to understand or support you. No one asked why you made the decisions you did or what was going on in your head at the time. And certainly, no one asked what you were feeling. You were alone – terrifyingly alone.
I would have liked to have known some of those answers, perhaps to even have been your confident. What I could have learned from you. I could have learned what it was like to be man and to face the challenges of being a man. It would have helped me on my own path, but I don’t mean to now cast guilt for the bond between men – fathers and sons – must be beyond guilt.
To fail and lose was not the issue, I needed to learn what it was to become a man and live to fight another day. What did you feel when love touched you? What did you learn when love ran from you? How did you feel deep inside of you when you gave to others, and when you were able to make someone happy? What did you feel when you hurt others? Were you able to find your own pain? What forces were against you, what battles deep inside of you did you wage? I would have loved to have known all of that. I could have written the history of that great legacy and passed it on to my son. It is our history, that history of man himself. How does he deal with success and failure, triumph and deception, and where does he put his pain to rest?
You are the father: the planter of the seeds of life, the harvester of fruits, the defender of right and the giver. You are my legacy and I too now form part of that special bond. It is a secret that we must share for it is known only to us. It is the gift of forgiving and pardoning of offenses, of being noble and virtuous and above all – magnanimous. It is the secret of not giving in – but giving out. It is about finding love of life and preserving life in love. What we have to tell is not about castigating our manhood or eliminating our polarity, but about being free to express what is there inside of us; for we are bonded to nature and needed, just as woman is, and without whom life would not exist.
It is all too noticed if man is absent – physically and emotionally – from life and those who form part of it for him. We are left growing up with some fundamental piece missing from our genetic structure as humans. The message is lost upon us that life isn’t the same without the father – without man – that he is needed and wanted, in spite of his failings.
So you and I have our responsibility, to heal your wounds and to heal mine. I can give you my words for they are nourished from my heart and maybe you can find in them your peace. You have already given me much, for from you I have gained understanding and my burden is less. Let us give permission to the other to be as he is – you, the father and I the son. There is still time to impart the lessons of time. They must be spoken and stated clearly for they are the history of those who will look to us from today onward. We must not be fearful of the past but faithful to the nobility of the cause. The strength of man lies in our union, free from our isolation and our ill-fated deception. We must change the destiny of man.
So please don’t worry, I have not forgotten who you are. I remember how life was for you, full of art and beauty. You created with every act, every word and with every attention to detail. Nothing escaped your eye. From you I learned to communicate, you were great at it. Life was meant to share and to discover from all who crossed your path. And I think that if there is some inherent goodness inside of me, it must be your legacy to me as you so often brought it out in others. As you can see, I cannot escape from who I am nor do I wish to – for you gave me so much. It’s all there, recorded and embedded in my character and personality for the entire world to see – you, the father, who is behind the son.
Postscript: Wouldn’t it be wonderful, if life began again for us with everything that we know now?