I sit here on Father’s Day feeling blessed to have had three fathers in my life. Some are lucky to have one, truly exceptional father. Others, sadly, have faced life with no fatherly influence at all. And, there are many of us in between, some with ambivalent fathers and others with multiple paternal influences through divorce, death or other of life’s difficult transitions.
I have gained, of course, from the gifts of their wisdom, faith, strength and experience. I have also benefited from their mistakes – poor decisions, character flaws, painful transgressions. In short, I have learned from their humanity. I’ve had a front row seat for both the good and the bad and I am grateful for all of it.
Timothy, my father, was the priest. He taught me the power of language. He shared both his passion for reading and his gift for speaking with strength and conviction. He was a model of faith, staying close to scripture throughout his life in an effort to deepen his learning. Through his own failures he taught me to respect marriage and inspired me to build a family life that will stand the test of time.
Duncan, my stepfather, was the physician. A quiet, gentle man, he valued the work of the hands. Whether it was caring for a patient or baking bread he did it steadily and without airs. He taught me that quiet reliability is just as important as dramatic flair. I didn’t understand that as a young man but I certainly respect it now. I saw him get really angry only once. He taught me to do so only when it counts.
Robert, my father-in-law, is the engineer. Smart and practical, he turned the lessons of a country life into success in the executive suite. He intimidated me for many years with his penetrating questions and the certainty of his belief. I now understand this as deep curiosity and impressive conviction. He teaches me to keep things simple, to be concise and to consider all the variables. An affable man, it’s his interest in others and his desire to learn that I admire most.
A priest, a physician and an engineer. It’s hard to imagine covering the bases any better than that. It’s with deep gratitude that I consider the impact of these men as models in my life and I feel keenly responsible to memorize the lessons I have learned from them and pass them along as best I can.
Mostly, I hope for a long and fulfilling relationship with my own children. One that is marked by a humble commitment to learn what they have to teach me.
© 2010 David Berry