The most important man in my life was my father. Dad expressed his love for me in many ways, most of them nonverbal. By demonstration and example, he taught me how to think, solve problems, use my hands – “the thumb is an amazing tool,” he said – and how to work with men. He taught me which end of the iron is hot, meaning which end of the soldering iron, but also “what’s what.” He showed me how to make my wife feel safe.
I loved my dad though, as with some fathers and sons, we had our disagreements. “Agreeing to disagree,” he called it. An electronics engineer by nature and an independent by trade, he wouldn’t have wanted it otherwise. He supported me in the risks I took, let me climb out on thin limbs when Mom was adamantly opposed, and quietly rooted for me, as his dad had for him. In his mentoring and the freedoms he gave me was his love.
It wasn’t until late in his life that he started saying, “I love you” to me, something I had long known. They were the last words we exchanged, with a hug, before his death in a horrific car crash a few weeks later. It made his passing less difficult to navigate: everything that needed to be said, had been.
Thank you, Dad, for your love and support. I miss you, bud.
I’ve heard some guys say regretfully, “My father never said he loved me.” But when I ask them if they felt Dad’s love through his mentoring, they say yes. It is an acceptance some men must reach, that their father’s love was shown, not uttered. And it is an acceptance that some women may wish to reach, that their husbands and boyfriends don’t always say, “I love you.”
But we do try to show it in silent ways.
Of the 500 pieces I received in response to my call for submissions, probably half were directly about or touched on the father-son connection. Most of these stories were written by the son about the father. It can be the strongest bond and a most difficult relationship.
In this section are stories about fathers with their sons and families. In “Holding Levi’s Hand,” you’ll find Craig Brooke-Weiss following his own advice. Jed Diamond, author of seventeen books on men’s health, tells a story of “My Father, My Son, Myself.” In “Buck” by T.S. Ash, a father is strong for his family.
Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog, awakens to fatherhood in his story, “The Door.” Mike Schneider’s poem about family mentoring is called “Old Blue Volvo.” Finally, Michael Chabon’s story about himself as “A Textbook Father” for his daughter, though not here online, will be in the print edition of Heart of a Man.
This section is a small sampling of the father stories I received in response to the anthology’s call for submissions.