A couple months ago, my father and I had a conversation. My dad has been reflecting on his life a lot lately and there were some things he wanted to say. Most surprising to me was this one thought he had, this fear that he hadn't been the father I wanted or needed throughout my life. He asked me to think about times when I needed him and he wasn't there or when things didn't go the way I thought they should.
Here's what I remember:
As I have documented here before, my father isn't my biological dad. My mom met him the year after I was born. I was adopted by him when I was 13. I don't know—or care to know—my biological father. That adoption is the only thing that I wish had gone differently. Not the adoption itself. I love my dad. I love my family. I wouldn't change that for the world. At 13, however, I had already created an identity for myself. I was a Saunders. I was proud of being a Saunders. I felt strongly about being the lone Saunders grandson (which I still am) and the importance of carrying that name forward meant. So, my challenge with the process of adoption was that nobody talked to me about it. Nobody explained why we were doing it. What it meant for me. Nobody asked me how I felt about it. And, to be frank, that pissed me off.
Anybody who knows me, I suspect, generally understands this about who I am: I am incredibly independent, ridiculously curious, and hate not being trusted with information. I have always been this way. Since my youngest days, I have always wanted to be a part of the conversation. If there's anything that I would like for my relationship with my father, it's this -- that we could talk more. I mean really talk. We've rarely been on the same wavelength in conversation. I've rarely felt unguarded with him, protective of my feelings and his, protective of my view of him and his view of me. I've gotten more open with age but this is still a challenge. I don't talk with any of my family enough but this is even more stark with my dad. Even when we do talk, I worry I'm not doing enough to just be present, just be normal, just be me when I'm with him.
Here's what else I remember:
His patience with me as I never quite took to music the way he loved it; playing baseball in the backyard; his challenges to me to be a much more active member of the family; teaching me how to ride a bike and drive a car; showing me what it meant to be an independent adult; being stern and firm when I needed it; and, letting me be who I am.
And the music. It's kind of amazing to live in a house dominated by beautiful sounds, masterful playing, and a constant stream of creative individuals walking through the door. I may not play but I appreciate music greatly -- a wide variety of sounds. I appreciate the hard work it takes to be great at something. I understand the singular passion and focus it takes to make beautiful things.
My dad still practices for hours on end to this day. I couldn't make it through 30 minutes at the piano when I was 7.
His fingers make magic.
Happy Father's Day.