Father's Day, that once a year tribute to Dad, is fraught with confusion. Many offspring pay no more than lip service to it through phone calls or commercial cards.
Because 70% of U.S. prisoners grew up without a father and because poets use few words to get to the heart of things, they encourage brief hand-written communication to all fathers whether or not they live with you, whether or not they are still living. Therefore, three poets in San Luis Obispo, California added Write-to-Your-Father's Day to the calendar of U.S. National Holidays.
“Okay,” you might ask, “What do I write to my Dad? 'I love you' would be a lie and the truth would just hurt him.”
One of the poets answers “Simply write and ask your father what he does or did that is
1. Most enjoyable,
2. Most scary,
3. Most exciting and
4. Most satisfying.
Don't expect an answer. If you don't know where he is, write his answer as you imagine it. Repeat the question each year, adding to it briefly when you desire.
There will be results. Risk them.”
HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOUR FATHER?
Take the following survey to see where you fall on the scale. “How well do you know your father on a scale of one to ten, with one standing for “Who?” and ten for 'very well'?”
Who?1___2___3___4___5___6___7___8___9___10 Very well
In a survey of 100 random adults,
11 chose 10, 7 chose 9, 15 chose 8, 12 chose 7, 3 chose 6, 3 chose 5, 17 chose 4, 9 chose 3, 13 chose 2, 10 chose 1
The younger the respondent, the more likely he or she asked, “Which father?”
One comment, typical of many, came by email. An adult son wrote, “Both my bio dad and step dad are gone from this earth. And I never really knew either one. They were men troubled all their lives and suffered John Wayne Syndrome.”
Another: “What an interesting question. I neither knew my father nor my father-in-law despite years with them.”
The National “Write-to-your-Father's Day” one week before Father's Day encourages an end to silent suffering, to John Wayne syndromes, to bitterness and loneliness.
Writing letters to fathers whether or not they are still alive, whether or not there's a known address, changes the writer for the better. And delivered letters change the fathers.
Here's one that came by email. This writer didn't ask his father the suggested questions. Because he was one of the few that chose number ten on the scale, he felt that he knew the answers. Feel what happened, though, when he wrote to his long dead father:
How is the weather down there? I know it must be particularly hot this time of year. I was asked by someone how well I know my father. I know you well enough to know that if they have an air conditioning concession down there, then you have total distribution rights and you have by now probably cornered the market on ice cream as well.
And that's good, Dad; I know you had a hell of time on earth especially during the time that you and I were alive simultaneously. I know it wasn't easy being the blind black sheep of a family of Mississippi plantation owners. I guess if anything confused me growing up, it was how you could hold two opposing views on things like skin color.
I should tell you I have done most of the things that you tried to teach me not to do, most of which you were doing too, but would never admit it, being a hypocrite's hypocrite in a land of champion hypocrites. That is one of the few things that you told me not to do that I have been relatively successful at.
I am sorry it took me so long to write. If the poets had come up with their “Write Your Father” holiday earlier, I would have written you sooner.
I hope you do OK down there. I know it is probably too hot for you to throw those tantrums you used to throw when I would demonstrate my extreme absentmindedness. I have not gotten any better by the way. Remember how you used to call me all those names wrapped in epithets when I would forget something?
Well, I tell you what, Dad. If you can forgive my absentmindedness, I will forgive you your tantrums. Let's call it even. I love you as much as you loved me, Dad, and you know that is more than zero.