Thursday, June 12, 2014

Father's Day A Happy Holiday Once Again

This column originally appeared in The Sun Chronicle on Friday, June 13, 2014
By Bill Gouveia

            I hated Father’s Day when I was growing up.  It was an awkward time, and I always wished we could just skip it.


            Not that my home life was horrible, mind you.  My parents split when I was 12, and the few years before that weren’t exactly cheerful and homey.  But my first decade was spent in what I consider a great childhood.  I was the oldest of three, lived in a nice residential neighborhood with lots of friends, and had tons of family nearby.


            But even before the split, my dad was not exactly the type that celebrated Father’s Day.  He was a hard-working Portuguese-American who was putting himself through college, working three or more jobs to support us, and who considered excessive emotion to be a weakness.  He would make time to celebrate his family members, but celebrating himself just seemed silly.


            It was good Father’s Day was on a Sunday, because that was one of the few times we would see Dad.  Between attending night school, working days in a Boston financial firm, and butchering meat on nights and weekends, his free time was at a premium.  As kids, we knew that and understood.


            His generation of fathers seemed to concentrate on “providing” as the overriding principle upon which they built their lives.  He wanted us to live in a nice house.  He took pride in putting steak on the table several nights a week.  He mowed the grass regularly, took pride in his home and family, and minded his own business.


            We never doubted that he loved us.  But the way he showed it was hard to fully comprehend.  He came from a different country and a different life with more responsibilities.  He probably had as tough a time understanding our needs as we did his.  I shouldn’t speak for my brother or my late sister though.  Maybe it was just me.


            I remember my dad being at exactly one of my Little League games.  It was a big deal, and I was extremely excited.  He wasn’t a huge sports fan, so that wasn’t something we bonded over.  But half a century later, I still recall him standing along the third base line smiling at me as I batted. 


            My dad never had “the talk” with me.  He never taught me how to shave.  We never discussed girls, talked sparingly of school, and had very few truly emotional moments between us.  As I grew into my later teenage years, that became a good thing because the emotional moments were seldom about sentiment and often about resentment.


            Despite our differences, I saw my dad as the strongest man in the world.  I respected how hard he worked and what he accomplished.  And though I was more outgoing, I proudly became a lot like him in other ways.


            Then I got married and became a father.  My perspective – and my world – slowly changed.


            I wanted to be a good provider, like my dad.  I worked 80 hours per week.  When I had the opportunity to start a business with a friend, that number went even higher.  I was building a future for my family, and I was proud of what I was doing.


            But I should have done some things differently.  I know that now.


            I wish I had provided less financially and more emotionally for my kids.  They could have done with a few less toys and a lot more Dad.  I was there for lots of special moments in their lives, but I wish I had been there for more.


I believe I’ve been a reasonably good father, but understand now I could have been so much better.  Being a grandfather has given me the opportunity to try and make up for past failures, even if only in my own mind.


I loved my dad, but I’m glad I didn’t grow up to be just like him.  And I’m truly grateful my own two sons didn’t grow up to be just like me.  Because of them, and the kind of dads they have become, Father’s Day is now one of my favorite holidays.


A good father never stops learning how to be a better dad.  Happy Father’s Day to all you dads.


Bill Gouveia is a local columnist, father of two and grandfather of three.  He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.

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