Today, I want to salute all the fathers, especially those who have a child that has a disability.
My husband is one of those courageous men. In August 2012, he will be a father for fifty years and has been a grandfather for more than thirty years. He was a big encourager for our daughter, who suffered from bipolar disorder. Even though his words were few, his love for her was unconditional.
After she was divorced and raising her two children alone, my husband maintained a vegetable garden in her yard. We all enjoyed the fresh produce, but I suspect the garden was the vehicle he used to keep a fatherly eye on his grown up baby girl, always encouraging her to carry on. Her mental dysfunction, kept her needy and she often asked him to hang a picture, run an errand, trim the bushes, or just to visit over a cup of coffee at her kitchen table.
Fathers deal differently than mothers with mental illness in their family. Because mothers are more nurturing, they work out their disappointment and grief by getting actively involved in their child’s daily problems and by advocating for them. Fathers take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Sometimes it appears as though they are in denial about the illness, but they are dealing with their grief in a different way. They often escape in their work, in sports, or other activities. They need a little more time to process what is happening and we mothers need to be patient with them.
So, I wish a happy Father’s Day to all you courageous dads, and thank you for sticking with your family, even in the tough times.