Father’s Day


June is a contradiction.  It is the brightest month, with the most daylight, as the days grow longer than any other time of the year.  Yet despite this brightness, June is dominated by the darkness of the shadows cast by the green leaves and trees against the late afternoon and early evening skies.  As the night approaches, the shadows lengthen, and we can sense the emergence of the ghosts that their darkness conceals. 

The most recognizable sound of June is the sound of a screen door slamming, the sound of ourselves as young children, with unbounded energy and time at our disposal, running outside in the warmth of the late spring days, freed from the confines of school.  As we grow older we recognize this sound to be the doors of memory slamming and locking in experience.   Everything that has ever happened to us is stored in dark and dusty corners of our brains that wait to be exposed by the flash of recognition.

Tonight I am in my cabin in northern Wisconsin, some 330 odd miles to the northwest of my home in Pleasant Prairie, where the days are even longer, with shades of daylight becoming evident shortly after 4:00 AM and not completely fading until sometime around 10:00 P.M.    Up here, as the sun slowly descends in the west, the trees cast shadows of the fading today that gradually lengthen and disappear, only to be replaced, on clear nights, by the shadows of the silver moonlight that light up the night sky and haunt the landscape of tomorrow.   

It is in the lengthening shadows cast by the setting sun that I see myself as son to my Father, nearly 85 years old now, and in their darkness and mystery I see myself and him, then and now, and the slow parade of forgotten days that have left the marks of age on us both.   When the sun completes its descent and the shadows are consumed by the night and die, our time as Father and Son will end, and the whole of our experience will lie hidden by the vast and all encompassing darkness, reduced to shapeless and random fragments that we occasionally stumble upon while walking the blind path of memory.

But then the moon rises, and in its new shadows I see myself as Father to my sons and daughter, and those same random fragments are illuminated.  They take shape and their meaning begins to form.   The shadows of the dying day inform the moon lit shadows of night, and we realize the path we are walking is headed east, toward the new day. 

I have tried to be as good a Father to my children as my Dad has been to me.  I have always recognized this to be an unattainable goal.  I’ve always loved, admired and respected my Dad.    Everything I know about and aspire to be as a Father I learned from his example.   Despite his flaws and imperfections he is, above all, a good man.

The new day arrives on the familiar streams of ultraviolet light that pass through early morning windows.   I get out of bed and look outside.  The sun is shining and everything is bright and green.  It’s going to be a beautiful day, warm and dry with a pleasant breeze blowing out of the north.  The sun is beginning its ascent.   It’s going to be a long day and there is much to get done before the evening shadows and their ghosts emerge again.

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