Sunday, June 19, 2011

tell me a story

Happy Fathers Day 2011

There are five things I’d like to tell you about my father:
                    1.      As a young man he left home for Austria to study for the Catholic priesthood.
                    2.      Before the Nazi invasion of Austria, he fled and returned to the States.
                    3.      He entered the Army, attained the rank of Captain, and was one of the first men to enter the concentration camps when they were liberated.
                    4.      He never recovered from that experience.
                    5.      I never knew any of this until after he passed away at the age of seventy-one.

…meaning that I never really knew my own father. I knew him as a kind-hearted, gentle, nature-loving man, a sweet-tempered alcoholic, an easy-going soul. But I had no insight into his emotional, spiritual, and psychological truth.
Not that I knew enough to ask…or even to care…as a child, but now that I’m older, OMG how I wish I’d known!

If I had known about my father’s pain, his courage, his faith, and what informed his decisions in life, I’d have been a better daughter to him, a better wife to my husband, and a better mother to my own children. I would have respected him differently, admired him more, forgiven him freely, and loved him openly. And I would have carried that same kind of respect, admiration, and affection into my other relationships.
I wish my father had told me his story. It is disturbing to think that shame, or fear, or pride may have silenced him…the way it silences so many of our men. So I have a favor to ask of all fathers, grandfathers, uncles, husbands, sons, and brothers today:

Please tell me a story.

Tell me YOUR story. Tell all of us. Don’t be shy. Don’t be ashamed.
Share your experience and wisdom with the people who love you. It doesn’t have to be the tale of a conquering hero, or a generous benefactor, or a successful endeavor. It doesn’t have to be the story of courage or strength or ambition.

It will help the rest of us bear our own weaknesses, sorrows, and defeats to know how you bear yours. It will help us acknowledge our own faults and failings if we understand yours. We are connected through our shared humanity. We are separated by silence and shame.

What story will you share with us?
I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments,
when they aren't trying to teach us.
--Umberto Eco--
In my next post I’ll share something I just learned about my muse…and the boys in the basement.


  1. What a tribute. I know my father was haunted by something that happened in his youth. I knew what it was though he never spoke of it.

  2. That is an outstanding post.

    I don't share too many things in the moment, but I share quite a bit on my blog. I'm hoping that it's around for my kids to read when they get older.

    For what it's worth, I would wager it wasn't pride or shame that kept him from sharing, but the fear that the images would hurt others the way it hurt them. Father's have that sense of having to always protect like that.

  3. Thanks, Susan.

    Excellent point, Matt. I only wish I knew. There is a time for silence and a time for sharing in all things.