Home is where the heart is

Photo credit: Debby Hudson on Unsplash

The Tim Horton’s in my sleepy little suburb should pay a handsome commission to online dating sites for seniors! I've met a lot of amazing, distinguished fathers there while seeking a companion for the Redblack’s games. And the conversation, to a man, always turned to their beloved children very quickly!

Universally, I noted that men regard the day their child was born to be one of, if not the most memorable, impactful and pivotal days in their lives. The momentousness of that precious infant’s arrival is undeniable. And the bond, commitment and love for their son or daughter can only be understood as an unfaltering, indestructible, utterly incorruptible attachment, for life.

Father’s love their children and children love their fathers. Fathers especially love their sons and sons especially love their fathers. Fathers have a unique bond with their daughters and daughters adore their dads.

And yet, it is hard to express those feelings for most of us, men in particular. There is an unwritten code of manliness that requires males to marshal, suppress and manage the expression of loving feelings towards other males. Father’s Day often pushes that right up in our faces and we wonder what to do about it.

One 77 year-old, highly gifted, MBA-type dad, I knew related a heart wrenching story of helping his son renovate his home over several arduous months. The son offered his elderly father a mattress on the floor under a dining room table for a bed, whilst having a three bedroom functional residence used by his wife and teenagers. After an abundance of painstaking work by the dad to complete the ‘Reno’, the son stopped all communication with the father, the reason for which the dad did not know. Despite overwhelming feelings of hurt and rejection, his love for this child remained constant. He still wanted to have a loving connection but somehow could not find words to ask for it.

Another 75 year-old, gifted guy with an accomplished military career behind him, told me of his best childhood memory of his father. He was raised in elite boarding schools and the like because of his parents’ high powered careers. But one weekend his dad invited him to accompany him to professional ball game. You might be picturing a couple of fans in blue team tee shirts, popcorn and cokes in hand, jumping up and down at a home run or embracing each other when their slugger tied up the game for Toronto. But no. The father dutifully settled his son in a box seat, ensured he was safe, provided him some popcorn and a coke, and then left the boy to join his own adult friends. The dad collected his teenager after the game asking him if he had had a good time. Despite feeling totally jettisoned, unvalued and second place to his father’s buddies, this son loved his father. He desperately thirsted for some kind of close connection but never seemed able to voice those words and express those deep felt longings.

A third man, a gifted retired high school teacher in his 70’s, spoke admiringly of his father who served stoically in World War 2 and returned to his family absolutely committed to farming and his children. The man’s proof of his father’s love was an incident at age 9, when after a long hard work day in a threshing bee with his dad and neighbours, stood among the exhausted workers who gathered for a cool drink, to quell the thirst induced by the sun which had for so many hours, engulfed the fields with oppressive  heat. His father passed him a cold bottle beer commenting that since he worked like a man, he was a man and deserved to be treated like a man. This father loved his son and the son loved his father but they never once spoke about the intensity of their connection.

In all these stories there is a commonality. Love between a father and son, yet not one was able to say it to the other. If you are saying to yourself, “This is me, this is us, or I can totally relate”, read on.

Home is where the heart is.

A father’s heart is always with his child. If he lives in a long term care institution, his home is with his child. If he chases golf balls near his Florida seniors trailer park, his home is with his child. If he now lives in Victoria or on the Cayman Islands in a condo, his home is with his child.

Fathers think about their child on Father’s Day. Fathers wonder how to say mushy stuff like ‘I love you’, ‘I gave my life for you’, and ‘I did my best for you with what I had and who I was.’ They would give anything to tell their child things like, ‘I wanted only the best for you’,’ I would have stretched out on the tracks in front of an oncoming train to save you from harm’, or ‘My heart is ever with you, though you may not know it, and I regretfully may not have said it or shown it’.

If home is where the heart is, your father’s home is with you, his son or daughter. His primary residence cannot be bought. It is an invaluable piece of heritage real estate. It is a priceless treasured palace until he passes.

No matter how difficult and dysfunctional your relationship with your father, no matter how imperfect each of you were in your roles as a father or child, bring your father home to where his heart is, in whatever way you can on Father’s day. Say you love him in any way he will get it: a three day fishing trip together, a bus trip to your old stomping grounds alone, or a weekend at his summer cottage, just you and him, perhaps. If he no longer is able to do much anymore, why not sit by his side, just holding his frail hand, talking over old times or watching his favourite team win a game on the tube.

And whether you hold an MBA in International Business from McGill, or left school at 7th grade,  there is something else you might want to do this Father’s day. It might not come easy. It might be a first. It might feel uncomfortable, for some.

But when you are ready to leave your father, wherever you see him on that special day, put your loving arms around him and hold him ever so gently. Lean in close, press a tender kiss on his wrinkled brow and whisper softly in his ear the simple four line verse which follows.

You will never look back and regret it. You need not have run a 10K, skied a Black Diamond at Whistler, or chaired a conference of CEO’s to be capable of it. You just have to have a dad that you love!

“I love you my father, should have told you before,
Didn’t know how to say it, but not anymore.
Thank you my father for all you have done,
I’m grateful that life, placed me as your son.”

For home is where the heart is and your father’s heart will be with you this Father’s Day, and every day of his life going forward, until you no longer have a father to honour on this special day in June.