Years ago, I knew a 16-year-old who didn’t much like his father. They seldom talked when they didn’t argue. So the boy left home and, when he turned 17, joined the Army. His father signed the forms, and the boy was gone. After the Army, the boy went to school, got married, moved two thousand miles away and saw his father two or three times a year until the boy moved to the West Coast, his father moved to Florida, and they saw each other only once every few years, until Thanksgiving, 1994.
The call came, as they often do, very early in the morning. A plane ride to Tampa; rental car to a St. Petersburg hospital; and a silent, last visit that lasted less than an hour. The father was blind, tubes in his throat and nose, and a mask for oxygen his lungs were too damaged to use. They couldn’t talk any better than when the boy was 16. “I love you, Dad,” the boy-man said to his father. I think I felt his hand squeeze mine, and he was gone.
Mothers are easy to talk to. My son tells his mother everything. She’s the caregiver, the clothes buyer, the homework helper. They talk and talk. I was the same with my mother. Mothers deserve their Day. I’m not sure about Fathers’ Day.
This Father’s Day, I’m going to spend the whole day talking to my 16-year-old. I’ll follow him around; he’ll think I’m a pest. Maybe he’ll hear me, he may even talk back. But, I’m still learning to talk to my son. It will take more than just a day.
Jac Flanders is the author of “What I Learned On The Way Down,” eBook and paperback versions from Amazon.com.