One of the most important lotteries we ever play is the one in which we don't choose to participate. Your parents are the byproduct of chance. That means your father, whether present, absent or somewhere in between, is assigned to you by fate (at least in so far as you are concerned).
In this case, I won the Dad lottery. My father (and my mother) took the long flight from the East Coast to the West Coast for a vacation. So my brother and I have the privilege of spending Father's Day with our Dad.
My Dad's time here has included driving up and down the corridor between San Francisco and the Valley, alternating between seeing me and my brother. If you commute using that corridor, you know what this means. The two highways that run between the city and the Peninsula, 101 and 280, are brutal drives. California drivers, rightfully frustrated with the poor transportation system in the Land of Innovation, are, to put it politely, aggressive when they are not flat-out dangerously negligent and rude.
Stack on top of that the long drives up to Sonoma, Mill Valley and everywhere else my parents have gone this week, and it is miles and miles of challenging (when not mind-numbing) driving. My father does it all with no complaints, spending the free time of his retirement battling Silicon Valley traffic to spend time with me, my brother, my friends and our extended family.
When I offer to order a ride and tell him that I don't want to inconvenience him further by asking him to drive all the way down south late at night, he brushes me off. It's nothing, he says. But I know that, after spending hours in a rental car, it's more than something. Where I am trying to buy him convenience, he is buying time with me. The honor of that -- having a father who will drive deep into the night for a few more minutes with me and to make sure I am safe -- is not a gift. It is not a blessing. It is love.
My father has been there from the day I was born and every day since. Leaving the East Coast this spring was difficult, but it was made infinitely more so by the lost time -- time I would not be able to spend with him.
Part of growing older is recognizing that your parents are fallible and your time with them is finite. You begin to share the complex emotions of adulthood with them. They always bring more experience to the table, but the true nature of the challenges they faced and obstacles they overcame come into focus. Conversations can become more robust, connections grow deeper and you begin to realize the incredible resource of history and experience available to you. This happens just as you are called on to leave home -- and your parents -- behind.
I am now roughly as old as my Dad was when I was born, and older than my mother was when she had me. I see now, far more clearly than I ever could in my youth, the extent of their resilience and their unshakeable belief that, if you apply yourself and stay focused, anything is possible.
Whenever I feel down or lose that focus, my father tells me a went-to-school-uphill-both-ways story. Except the hills are truly mountains he traversed with far less than I ever had. The things he had in abundance were grit, hope and a deep desire to learn. He places my problems in perspective without derision or dismissal. He tells me just enough to help me understand, reorient and dig down and find the grit he worked hard to instill in me. The extent of my gratitude extends beyond my ability to acknowledge. So, Dad, happy Father's Day and thank you.
I would be irresponsible if I did not take a moment to acknowledge those who do not have their fathers in their lives today. Even though I may not know you, you are in my thoughts and in my heart. To those of you with two fathers or two mothers -- or any combination of parents, and if you are a father yourself, I wish you a beautiful day filled with love ... and all the days thereafter.