Lead Your Receiver
Lead Your Receiver
Thoughts on Fathers Day for those without fathers.
I grew up playing football as a little boy.
I loved sports. Since I could hold a football, I would come home from school, and immediately head to the backyard to enter into another world...
I am an all-pro, hall-of-fame quarterback on his last drive to winning the super bowl. The crowd is roaring all around me. The pressure is on, but I am ready for the moment.
I take the snap, I drop back to throw, I know the route the receiver is running. I pull back, throw the ball and take off at a full sprint.
I'm running with all the speed I can muster, looking over my shoulder. I take a giant leap (all four feet of me) and catch the pigskin out of the air. I get up, spike the ball and pretend I am hoisting my championship trophy.
Then, the sliding glass door opens and everything snaps back to reality. I feel a rush of embarrassment for getting caught celebrating my imaginary victory. "Come eat your dinner, honey." My mother would call.
Everything fades into place again. Instead of crowds, I see the trees that lined our backyard. Instead of a huge green field marked by yards, I see a green-ish lawn in need of a mow.
In real games and practices, I had this instinct to always throw the ball where the receiver was running to, not where they actually were. As a little kid, this was a pretty advanced way to see the game. I was really good at it. It was natural for me and didn't seem special or difficult. It just worked. The reason I was good at leading my receivers like this was because I had to lead myself. I would throw the ball to myself and run to catch it on the other side of the yard. I had no one to play with, so I figured out how to do it on my own.
This became a type of metaphor for how I've looked at many aspects of my life as a young man. No one is going to help me, so I'll do it on my own.
My dad had many demons. I never knew it because, in the brief amount of time we did spend together, he did a good job of hiding them. I admired him a lot. He was fun. Always made jokes, and we couldn't go anywhere without him making a new friend or getting strangers to laugh. He was charismatic. He was magnetic.
My dad died 7 years ago, and my life has changed in every way. I had just turned 20 then. I was a single, touring musician trying to get by and make a name for myself. Now I am 27, happily married with a cute dog, living in New York City.
Still, I'll never know the reasons why he stopped trying to see me grow up. I'll never understand why he didn't fight harder for time with me or why he simply just wouldn't show up.
Today is Father's Day and these weekends are always hard for me. They're hard for a lot of people. Fathers and their role in our lives shape more than we realize. Young men need an example of what it means to be a loving, strong and noble person. Young women need an example that makes them understand their beauty, value, and that they deserve the very best in this world.
Some of us didn't, don't and won't ever have that. Some of us have to throw the ball and run to catch it too.
My heart aches when I zoom out and see a little 4-foot version of myself all alone in the yard, throwing a ball back and forth to myself because I don't have someone to play with me. To show me the ropes. To help me know I am not alone.
I've come a long way since losing my dad 7 years ago. I've crashed and burned. I've gone to therapy. I've failed innumerable times in innumerable ways. And with every step, I fight the feeling of resentment, that I have to figure out what it means to be a man on my own. That I am destined to 'learn the hard way' the rest of my life because there is no one to put up guard-rails for me to bump safely against, as fathers should.
This probably sounds silly to someone who hasn't lost a parent. It probably comes off overly dramatic or like I'm ungrateful for the family I do have. I have an amazing family. I have great examples of the kind of man I want to be in my life. But there's just something about your dad being in your corner. I don't want to borrow other peoples dads, I want to have mydad tell me he's proud of me.
I'm actually crying as I write this. I don't know if the pain ever goes away, but I do know it gets better with processing. Healing happens over time, and over seasons of life. Every day I look this in the face and take it on; I believe I am growing and getting healthier. But that doesn't make it easy.
If you can't take anything from this Father's Day weekend, that's okay. Some of us will be working from the negative, trying to climb our way up and into some semblance of normalcy for the day. It's okay to be there. It's okay if it hurts.
When I think about the choices of my future, when I become a father - I dream of the day I can be on the other side of the yard, catching the ball with my son or daughter. I plan on being present with them. I plan on being consistent for them. I plan on giving them what I always wish I'd had from my father.
They may not see a stadium of people cheering them on as I had in my imagination, but at least they will see me, their dad, cheering them on as their biggest fan in all the ordinary moments of real life.
Sometimes the only thing that helps me move forward is to remember my place in the story. That I get to choosewhat I do with my hand of cards, no matter how poorly the dealer dealt. Will I let it bulldoze me today? I'd love to say I won't, but I'm only human. Sometimes I will get run over by the painful feelings. Other days, I can look at my life, look at my stack of cards and dig a little deeper to ask myself 'How can I be who I want to be despite what has been done to me?'
It starts with a choice. I'm choosing to love myself and to give my family and my friends the very best I can offer - because I know who I'm becoming.
And that's what brings me comfort on days like today, and I pray you can find that too.