Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 171- The Most Important Job

As the father of two young daughters, I know that being a father is one of the most important jobs any man can have.

President Barack Obama, 6/20/2010

Dear Mr. President,

The most important job any man can have. I've never heard a better, or more heartbreaking description of fatherhood. This day has made me a bit sensitive for years, a dedicated celebration of a role that the my father never lived up to. This year it is particularly hard, both because my mother is facing the loss of her own dad, who had a massive stroke and will likely not live to see his 89th birthday in a few weeks, and because my best friend left today for the Peace Corps. I wanted to write about fatherhood, and all the men in my life who, with no bond of blood to compel them, supported me and encouraged me when I really needed it. I think your own childhood had similar experiences, but, as you said in your speech today, it is a hole that cannot ever be filled. My dad didn't leave, he wasn't physically absent, but, especially as I grew older, I often found myself needing a dad and finding that he was unwilling to be one. I've never wanted more from him than for him to just be my dad, to call me and ask about my day and tell me stories from his job and bad jokes. I may resent the hell out of his spending habits, his prioritizing new jewelry for my stepmother and motorcycles and caribbean cruises over any support for his daughters' education, I may think his law-and-order morality and republican voting record appalling, but at the end of the day, he's my dad, all he ever had to do was call me.

The worst part is the self-doubt. I know I could probably heal things, I could, again, be the one to call and we could talk again and it would be almost like I had a dad again. But I know it comes at much too high a cost, that I will always believe my obedience and submission and self-reproach is required for any one to love me. I would always question if I am too smart or too independent to be loved, if, one day, any slight offense, any violation of unspoken rules, would result in months, or even years of silence. My father had three girls and it was his most important job to be a father to us, to be good to our mother. How does any man justify walking away from that job?

Thank you, Mr. President, for reminding us how important that job is, to all of us. I am grateful for the number of father figures, friends, mentors, teachers, brothers, and the fathers who work so hard every day at it. Happy Father's day.

Respectfully yours,


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