It's Father's Day and I find myself in the confusing position of being a father.
You'd think after all these years that I might have a handle on what "father" meant, but I imagine I will simply go to my grave not-knowing.
Yesterday, on the car radio, Mark Shriver was being interviewed about his new book, "A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver." And one of the aspects of the conversation was the distinction between being "great" and being "good." Sargent Shriver was a man deeply embedded in political life... the Kennedys among others ... and in one sense was a "great" man. And yet his son, like any child, was more interested in his goodness and love. It's easy to be great, but it's hard to be good ... attentive and loving and present.
Who does not feel the allure of wanting to be great -- to be known and applauded and noticed? And who would not prefer to sidestep the homely and unapplauded realm of simple goodness?
The whole matter strikes me as strangely elusive and yet in-you-face concrete. I have tried to be accessible and honest and present with my kids and yet I am most acutely aware of my failures in those efforts. How I wish I might have done better, somehow, been more of a dad or an exemplar or something ... something better, something more nourishing ... more authoritative, more fun, more ... something....
The fact that I am pleased with and in my children does nothing to still my doubts. These are good people, in my eyes. Never mind if I am their father ... they are good people and I admire and love good people. But their decency and liveliness does not suggest to me that I had anything to do with it. More like, it was a bit of magic thrown up on my front stoop like a newspaper.
Today, my sons will take me to a mid-morning breakfast.
And I did get a silly card from my daughter today that said, "Dear Pop, Happy Father's Day! We all love you very much! Hope you have a great day!"
And despite my doubts I feel a crack in my doubts ... yes, I'll take some of that ... and feel grateful and warmed, if somewhat confused.