My Dads Secrets


From the book Spider's Night on the Boom

I've only begun to understand my dad since I became a father myself, and it's amazing to me how I'm constantly being reminded of lessons he taught me 40 years ago-lessons that I never even knew I was learning.

As a kid, my life was like a black-and-white kid's adventure movie, composed of disjointed, but sometimes very exciting scenes. My parents played the parts of supporting actors in the movie of my life, and although my dad would have rated large letters in the opening credits, his character would have been reviewed by a critic "needing to be fleshed out."

Even so, I saw my father as supremely confident. He could fix anything, he always seemed to know exactly where he was going, and knew the most efficient route to get there. I never saw a look of worry on his face, never heard him express any doubts, and I certainly never saw him cry. His air of confidence made our home a safe place to my brothers, sister, and I-a place to grow with total loving support.

But since the mantle of "Daddery" has been passed to me, I've come to realize that my dad must have had moments of genuine doubt and confusion, just as I do. But I never really knew how he felt, deep inside. It never showed, and we never talked about it.

When I became a father, I suddenly began to appreciate my own father's sacrifices as he worked tirelessly to provide for his family. I began to get a glimpse of the precarious balancing act he faced every day: wife, children and family vs. the dampened fires of his own soul.

It was only after I left home that I began to hear stories about my dad's dreams-sacrificed in the name of being a "father." I heard about a young man who gave up a promising baseball career to become my dad. There was no long debate; that's what dads did. They set aside their personal dreams to pursue what was considered a higher calling-that of giving the next generation an opportunity to pursue their dreams.

My father understood those rules clearly. Dads worked hard and stayed employed, regardless of how menial or mundane the job. Dads spent time with their kids. But most importantly, dads offered glimpses into what it meant to be a man and a father-in the purest sense of both terms.

In what seems to me to be a smaller way than my dad, I walk the precarious tightrope that is "Dad" vs. "Me," always trying to maintain a balance between the two. And although my circumstances are very different, the importance of the task remains unchanged.

Like my father, I try to let my kids know how much I believe in the sanctity of this special time in their lives. By offering them my love and support, I hope to give them the gift my father gave me-the greatest gift a father can give, really-warm, gentle memories of their childhood. And no matter how difficult their lives may become later on, they'll always be able to take comfort in those sweet memories, and no one can ever take that gift away.

So here's to my dad, to your dad, and to all dads-men who gave up or postponed their own dreams so that we might reach for ours. Men in whose footprints we tried to step as we struggled through the deep snowdrifts of our childhood, marveling at how long a man's stride could be.

© 2004. Gary E. Anderson. All rights reserved.

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