A difficult holiday? Make your own meaning!


Warning: I’m going to get personal with you a bit.

Communication happens in funny ways. Meaning comes from people, not from circumstances, but people inevitably create meaning around circumstances. Depression around Christmas is well-known. For me, Father’s Day is a very mixed holiday.

Part of it is something I share with lots and lots of people: my own dad died in 2002. I miss him a lot. So Father’s Day calls up both his absence and my gratitude for his presence for as long as I had him.

Of course, another part I also share with lots of people: my kids are, for the most part, grown. They are also scattered like seeds in the wind, except for our youngest, Hannah, who is disabled, and our youngest son, who has grown into quite an impressive young man who remains at home to help take care of our youngest and, I suspect, to help take care of us as we grow older. (Talk about mixed feelings!)

I am both grateful and sad. Each of my older kids are facing their own challenges, and mostly doing so with grace and developing wisdom. But some of them face challenges that just break my heart, and there is little or nothing I can do for them–first, because I don’t have the smarts or the resources, and second, because they’re not children any more. Their challenges are their own, and the best I can do is encourage them as they find their answers.

But I’m also saddened by separation, and by inadequacy. I wish I had been smarter when they were little. I wish I had known better how to prepare them for their challenges, or avoid some of them altogether. (There will always be challenges, but there are many unnecessary ones that we bring on ourselves, aren’t there?)

And then there’s Hannah, with a genetic disorder so rare there are only 15 to 20 like her known in the world at any given time. We have good nursing that helps keep her alive, but beyond that, I am completely confounded by even what to do for her, much less how to do it.

Twice in the last two days I have heard songs written from the perspective of a father about his little girl–about dancing with Cinderella, and butterfly kisses, and I ache to be able to do something like that. I would give everything I own for a dance, a conversation, a kiss on the cheek, even just a smile.

But if you think that means I wish I didn’t have her, you would be very, very wrong.

For all of those out there with mixed feelings on this holiday, and especially for those whose first reaction to Father’s Day is a decidedly negative one, make a positive choice. There is someone who nurtured you, even if it wasn’t your own father. There is someone whom you have nurtured, perhaps without even knowing it. Take joy where you can, and even appreciate the bitter in the bittersweet. It’s just a number on a calendar; what it means depends on what you bring to it.

Thanks, Dad. And thanks, kids. I don’t know what I would have done without you.

Share this, please!


  1. Sandra Weeks

    I heard about a movie, haven’t seen it actually I haven’t seen one start to finish in quite a few years,BUT it was an interesting concept to start llfe at the end and work backwards. I told my kids I am doing really great in school cuz my teacher knows I will reach retirement before I enter the work force and he feels sorry for me. You made me think of Ira.http://www.anencephalie-info.org/e/ira.php

    • Donn King

      I actually have that Ina May Gaskin book somewhere in my library, Sandra. Haven’t seen it for years, though. I believe the movie you’re talking about is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Very cool! Anyway, though I stay exhausted, I can relate to the concept of viewing it as a holy privilege to have responsibility for a child like Hannah. Thank you!

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