To say that my late father and I had a close, nurturing relationship would not only be misleading but really, untruthful. The truth is I didn’t really get to know my father until I was 10 years old after he and my mother reunited following a decade-long separation with my father living here in the states and my mother and me residing in Great Britain.

From the beginning, my relationship with my father was difficult at best. It is my belief that when we reunited with him, he was somewhat resentful of the closeness I shared with my mother as I was growing up in England. It seemed no matter how hard my Dad may have tried, he was unable to ever duplicate the bond I shared with my mother.

Also, add the fact that when young boys reach their early pre-teens, they begin to assert their own independence and slowly pull away from their parents focusing more on their peers.

So, for me, a strong father/son relationship wasn’t in my favor. But looking back, I can recall two things that occurred which helped me overcome the skepticism I may have had about my father and the feelings he had toward me.

It was in my first year here in America and I had secured a small part in our school play, “The Christmas Story.” I portrayed one of the three Kings and had brought frankincense as a gift for the Christ child.

On opening night, my parents had arrived so early they managed to secure seats on the front row in the school auditorium.

Nervously, I uttered my one and only line in the play, “My gift is the gift of frankincense,” I shouted out. As the school production came to an end, I couldn’t help noticing that it was my father who was first to rise up out of his chair leading a standing ovation for the cast. I have never forgotten the look of pride on his face nor the echo of his applause that night.

Some years later when I was in high school, I was on the freshman wrestling team. Freshman meets were usually held right after school around 4 p.m. and although I wanted my father to come and watch me wrestle, he had made it abundantly clear that he could not get away from work until after 5 p.m.

So, without any expectation of his arrival, I stepped out onto the rubber mat to face my opponent. Then out of the corner of my eye, sitting on the first row of the bleachers, I saw my dad. He was there without any warning or fanfare. He was just there. He was there for me.

To this day, I really don’t recall whether I won that match or not (I think I may have lost), but I can tell you with no uncertainty what it meant to have my father there in the bleachers cheering me on.

No, I can’t say I was ever really close to my father. But certainly, there were times when he showed me he loved me and cared for me in a way that still touches my heart. I doubt I will ever completely know or understand my father or comprehend his true feelings for me. But I do know enough on Father’s Day — or any day — to give thanks.

Happy Father’s Day.

Mike Fitsko is a retired principal and longtime columnist from New Braunfels.

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