Monday, October 18, 2010

Fathers and Sons…and Fathers Again.

I’ve never met a man who hasn’t been profoundly affected by his own father (though I’ve met many who’ve never recognized it). I am no different.

As I write this entry, I am sailing across the Strait of Georgia from Vancouver to Vancouver Island; my father is having anything from a triple to a quintuple bypass tomorrow morning in Victoria.

I’m long past the age where my parents are starting to appear mortal. Between my parents (and their various spouses) there have been hip transplants, cancers, surgeries and several strokes. It isn’t like I’ve never pondered the prospect of losing one or both of my parents.

I don’t anticipate anything going wrong with my dads operation tomorrow, but still, I can’t help but be reflective. My father is a good man, who like the rest of us, has had his fair share of struggles. He was on the wrong end of two divorces, seemed to have more career setbacks than successes, and saw way less of his four children than he would have liked. He has his passions, too: for Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung and New Physics. For several years he has been working on a book which he feels can change the world. I admire his ambition.

I have regrets in my relationship with my father as I know he has with me. Most revolve around the time (or lack thereof) we spent together. And when we were with each other my father often seemed lost in thought. My dad would always find time to throw a ball or play a game of chess if I asked him, but he was never one to seek that engagement with me.

It’s no surprise then that as a father I seek out unsolicited activity time with my boys and am committed to being fully present to them when we are together. Even when I’m working, I find ways to have them work along with me. It’s no coincidence that my business revolves around helping absent, workaholic dads better connect with their kids.

In many ways, the mistakes our fathers made can be the greatest gifts they ever gave us. This isn’t to beat up on fathers by any means. This is borne from a sense of optimism that fathers and men are slowly evolving, and that awareness is the next step in that process. I certainly hope my sons will one day be able to learn from my countless parenting gaffes and become better fathers as a result. I want to know that my scaring errors won’t be in vain. Don’t we all?

I know my father feels very deeply that there are no accidents—that everything happens for a reason. As he goes over the tally sheet I hope he takes great comfort in knowing that I am a better father for having him as a father.

This past June, he sent me a Father’s Day card. In it he wrote, “You are the best dad I’ve ever known.”

It would appear he recognizes that his mistakes were not in vain.


  1. Cameron,
    What a beautiful and beautifully written post. I hold this no-data-to-support me theory that many of the men of my father's generation (and yours I suspect, mine is 73) are prone to heart problems because at some point their hearts just break - after growing up in and living through decades of a culture that taught them to hide their feelings - of love, fear, vulnerability.

    Lisa Duggan
    aka motherhoodmag

  2. I love the sentiment--the awareness of human imperfection combined with the lessons we all learn along the way--and the necessity for forgiveness. I think that when we realize how human our parents are--and that we can forgive them their imperfections--that's when we grow the most and also (importantly) learn to forgive ourselves. We also then give our children the ability (hopefully) to forgive themselves--all the while striving to do it better.

  3. Thanks, both of you, for your comments.

    Lisa, that is a very profound point you make, and sadly, I think it's all too true.


  4. This was a very touching, heartwarming read. This reminds me of a short story I read in High School about a strained father/son relationship that was not mended until the father was on his deathbed. I always remember the ending with words to the effect of . . . the chasm that had separated them for forty years, had finally closed. A short story I still remember to this day because it was at the onset of my own troubles with my dad. Thanks for posting.

  5. Very nice blog Cameron. Glad I could join and "follow." I have been searching other blogs to help inspire mine. This was a helpful one.