For Father’s Day my brothers, sister and I all went together and bought dad a jacket and hat embroidered with patches that said U.S. Army Retired and WWII, Korea, Viet Nam veteran. I don’t think I’ve seen dad that happy with a present in a long time. He kept looking at it, running his fingers over the embroidery and saying “Oh boy that’s nice. That’s something.” Between seeing all of his family and the gift, we made an old man very happy.
There’s a bunch of family birthdays in June so we combine them with Father’s Day and have a reunion of sorts. A lot of homemade food, drink, talking and laughing.
My son brought his girlfriend to the party and they actually stayed for the whole thing. He also bought me a really nice card and a gift card to Home Depot. His thoughtfulness meant a lot to me and really made my day.
I stressed myself out as I worked for the last couple of weeks finishing off my deck for the event. It’s just an old deck that I rehabbed as best I could until I can afford to completely redo it. I found myself getting caught up in trying to make everything perfect. I had to keep reminding myself that it was just family and nothing had to be perfect.
Last Fall I dug out a big section of the lawn just off of the deck and put in a flagstone patio. It was a lot of work for one man but it turned out nicely. I was pretty exhausted by the time it was done.
That’s how I do a lot of projects - I get an idea in my head, pour myself into it (doing it by myself) and by the time it’s done, I’m completely worn out. Sometimes the perfectionism lingers on and it’s difficult to enjoy the fruits of my labor as I see the flaws in it. At other times I can squelch the black dog and get some measure of enjoyment looking at my handiwork.
When I went running after work last night I went over a lot of the events and conversations from the weekend. It struck me how ingrained little criticisms are in my family.
“Did you just plant that maple tree?” asked my brother.
“No, that’s been there several years.” I said.
“Well, it’s too close to that oak tree.” he said as he motioned to the space between them.
I told him to “Feel free to dig it up and move it.”
In the big scheme of things it’s nothing, but in a family it’s often times the little things that accumulate and get under the skin. We’re all so full of ourselves, our opinions and insecurities. Everyone wants to be right. Everyone wants to share their opinions.
I’d get an A in a college class and my other brother would say, “Why didn’t you get an A+?” It was his attempt at humor but it really goes to the heart of the underlying ‘it’s never good enough’ attitude that always drove me crazy. There is an unspoken competitiveness that comes out in these get togethers. Who buys the nicest, most expensive gifts? Who has the latest gadgets, the newest car, etc.? It’s not that we aren’t a loving family. We care about each other a lot, but it’s like some measure of childhood rivalry and competitiveness has followed us in to adulthood.
This time I was determined not to play the game. I bought everyone a birthday gift but I refused to pay any more than $15 each. They may not have been hand-blown glass bowls bought at an art fair, but I managed to find good, thoughtful presents for everyone.
I found myself during Father’s Day observing our family dynamics. It occurred to me that a family is a lot like the flagstones I laid in the patio. All sizes, shapes and colors. Some fit together better than others. All have their niche and play a part in the whole.