How to celebrate Father's Day in 2020 is different this year due to Covid-19. I saw it on the face of a father talking about his son graduating from high school. It’s a good news/bad story. I’ll start with the bad news, which as you’ll see at the end, is part of the good news.
The other day I was taking my usual morning walk around the neighborhood. It was one of my daily It’s Amazing Out There walks I wrote about in last week’s blog post. I came across a man I had never met who appeared to be getting ready for an event at his house. There was a small “Congratulations Graduate 2020” sign stuck in the lawn near the end of his driveway, together with balloons and a container of sidewalk chalk.
“Are you having a graduation party today?” I asked.
“No. We’re just having neighbors over to congratulate my son by writing something on our driveway. We all built our homes together about the same time years ago, and he grew up with these people,” he said.
Apparently dad was still practicing social distancing, so a party was out the question.
He went on to say a graduation ceremony planned for later in the summer at the high school likely wasn’t going to happen. He didn’t need to say much more. It was all over his face.
This season of loss and of NO for graduating seniors came upon them so quickly and unexpectedly.
- No state basketball tournament (we had a good chance of making it this year :( )
- No track, tennis, or golf season (we were going to be so good this year!)
- No prom
- No graduation ceremony
- No graduation party
- No saying goodbye to your classmates in person
- No friends signing your yearbook
No meaningful closure to one of the most formative years of anyone’s life.
My neighbor then remarked, “I think this is harder on us parents than it is for my son and his friends.” Sadness covered his face like a black body bag.
As grandfather of twin boys who just graduated, I certainly feel what he’s feeling. It was easier the first time around with our own kids when all the mile-markers were in place to close out high school, and with it, childhood.
But in 2020 it’s different. As parents and grandparents, we haven’t had a chance to wave goodbye to the past as we would like. Six months ago we were putting them down for their afternoon nap, and now we are sending them off to college. As for the graduates themselves, they’re looking ahead to the future more than we are. They are so done with high school.
We are so wanting nostalgia to hang around a little while longer. Like that feeling when our team comes from behind to win the game in the bottom of the 9th with a walk-off homer. No one wants to leave the ballpark in a hurry. No one wants to leave 18 years of parenting quite so quickly either.
So where’s the good news in this story of the sad dad I met in our neighborhood? What’s to celebrate this Father's Day in 2020?
To celebrate this particular father, and all fathers like him, is to celebrate the fact he cares about his child and what his son or daughter has lost because of the pandemic. The sadness he feels shows the rest of us he cares that his kid is missing out on something important – the stepping stones leading from the past to the future.
His son, like most sons and daughters, won’t appreciate this rite of passage until years later. But the father feels this loss for him now.
That’s the good news. That’s what we can celebrate this Father's Day. Fathers who deeply care enough about their kids. Fathers, who when their sons and daughters suffer a loss they feel that loss, too. Not all fathers are like this, of course. But let’s honor the ones who are.
So if you want to celebrate and honor a father this coming Sunday, do all the stuff we normally do for dad. But also appreciate the sadness he may be feeling over what his children have lost.
You may have to look carefully, because we men are pretty good at hiding our sadness. And when you see it, you don’t need to say or do anything. Just count yourself blessed to have a relationship with one of the good ones.
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For a wife’s perspective on Father’s Day, read my “Better Than Bratwurst” Father's Day post from last year. It’s a beautiful tribute from my friend and gifted-writer, Sylvia Schroeder about a great father she knows. Click here.
There's more to come next Wednesday. In the meantime, you can browse below through all 3 seasons and 67 episodes of You Were Made for This. Season 4 resumes September 9th.