Being a father is the most thankless job on the planet. I have read this many times, and I agree. It’s not that I think my children or grandchildren don’t appreciate me, but that what I do as a father is mainly in the background. I believe that my reward is leaving behind a generation or two that will love and support one another, pay attention to the needs of others, and spend time with one another.
I grew up a product of a broken home, with one sibling that made a career of plotting against me and another that I didn’t meet until my 30s. Both siblings are similar in that neither has a desire for family connections. I’m 180 out; I thrive on being with family. I have 14 nieces and nephews between my two siblings; I don’t know any of them. Sure I met most of them at some point, but I don’t know them.
Luckily, I have eleven nieces and nephews on my wife’s side of the family. I know them, see them all, and have been invited to many life events. Being in San Diego with them is one of my happy places. I’m also blessed to have cousins on the fraternal side of my family. I consider these cousins part of my immediate family and refer to them as nieces and nephews. They, too, have included me in life events. Being in Florida with them is one of my happy places.
I have traveled as far as San Diego, Tampa, and, later this month, Montana at my nephew’s invitation. Again, I thrive when surrounded by family. My mother used to tell the story of a great uncle who always had a fork and spoon in his pocket. He did this so that if he passed a gathering at a home or church, he could join the celebration and have a good meal. He thrived on eating with people he didn’t know. On the other hand, I can pack a bag at a moment’s notice.
The point, or at least one of them, is we have to make an effort to be with the people we love. It would be easy to say they have to come to me, but the reality is it’s not about me. It’s about setting the example that family is so important that we will travel to them. We also have to take into account the reality of life. My nieces and nephews are younger, have families to raise and support, and their children’s busy lives. I’m retired; my schedule is my own. Even before I retired, I spent much time traveling to see family. Another critical point is that even though my family may not be able to travel here, they invite me to where they are. I can’t ever remember turning down an invitation.
While on active duty in the U.S. Navy, we could not always travel to see my parents on the opposite side of the country, but they made an effort to travel to us. My father set that example, and his reward was seeing us. I carry on that example and make that effort too. My reward is seeing my family, and that’s enough for me.
Based on the scriptures in our Holy Bible, I believe that being a Man, Father, Grandfather, and Uncle, I have a responsibility to set an example for my entire family. If I succeed, the next generation will set the benchmark for their children and grandchildren. I know many people who are detached from their children and grandchildren; they have reaped what they sowed.