The silent advisor. The stern lecturer. The strong leader.
Some knew only a shadow. Too often the man who should have been is merely a stranger, a simple fiction, the one who never was. He is a fantasy that will always remain absent and alien from any recognition. A ghost that may have appeared for a moment, all too brief, only to turn away and never look back. The one who made our mothers become unintentionally immaculate.
There are no songs for this missing man. No praises for those who would rather show their backs than their hearts. The road they walked down, the path they chose, should continue to be the direction they take, for the absent man who should have been will never be the advisor, the lecturer, the leader that his children need. The experience of the world has taken the place of the ghost. Those who would rather run than stand tall in the face of responsibility should continue to move their feet fast and far.
The children will grow. The roots will flourish. Tomorrow will come regardless.
But it is to you, our father, the one who stayed, the one who put on the shoes of those who left, that we praise. We applaud your commitment to lead. We lionize your honor. The world handed you a gift you could have departed from, and a responsibility you could have chosen never to bear.
And yet you carry the world on your shoulders, never letting sweat touch ground.
You did not ask for appreciation, and too often did we forget to provide it to you. You did not demand praise, no matter how much you deserved it. The smiles we had under the roof that sheltered us, in the bed that warmed us, and with the food that nurtured us showed that in our silence, we were screaming and we were joyful and we were blessed.
You showed us the meaning of integrity. You never let go of your own. You knew when times were hard and the decisions you made were harder not to turn your back on your family. You knew how to sacrifice your body without sacrificing your soul. You gave us your shirt when it was all that remained. You chose to die before letting your family starve.
You were the teacher and the student, the soldier and the general. You gave advice when needed, taught us lessons when unasked, while also learning as you went along, trusting your gut and your heart to make the choices that mattered most. We may not have always agreed, we may have never agreed, but we followed your steps. The sand remained furtive with the sun distant and bright.
You looked us in the eye and told us when we were full of it. You expressed disappointment but never shame. You spoke with actions, you led with words, and you loved with conviction.
Sometimes you never knew how much we looked up to you, because you never knew who we were. But your remote actions carried us the distance, and your example made the absence of others not matter.
You may have cried. You may have bled. You may have grown weary. But you never showed weakness. You were proud but never prideful in our small achievements, even if no words were shared. You never cut others down just to raise us up. You showed how others can be strong and we can be strong with them. We knew what it meant to share, because you gave your all to us.
You may have only offered a hand shake and a nod. The love held in those small gestures shifted the universe for us.
You are great.
You are invincible.
You are dad.
Even in our distance, our trials, our misunderstandings, our tears, our fights, our silence. Even in our passage of time, our rare glimpse into each other’s lives, our passing hellos and sudden goodbyes.
Even when you are mom.
You remain the standard by which we live. Thank you for the courage and the sacrifice that we may never fully understand.