A Fa­ther’s Day as­sign­ment for dads

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - RE­BECCA HAGELIN Re­becca Hagelin can be reached at re­becca@re­bec­c­a­hagelin.com.

There is very lit­tle that An­der­son Cooper and I have in com­mon. We dif­fer on ev­ery­thing from pol­i­tics, pol­icy and faith to be­liefs about hu­man sex­u­al­ity, to the def­i­ni­tion of mar­riage and the ef­fec­tive­ness of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. When­ever I catch him on CNN’s “An­der­son Cooper 360,” I mar­vel at how dif­fer­ently we see the world.

Although I’ve never met An­der­son, I know there’s at least one thing we have in com­mon, one truly heart­felt de­sire that we share: the crav­ing for a fa­ther’s love.

That strong in­born need to be cher­ished by a de­voted, lov­ing dad is one of the few things that binds not just An­der­son and me, but all hu­man be­ings. It is this highly prized and val­ued male role of “dad” that we cel­e­brate this com­ing Sun­day on Fa­ther’s Day.

Last year I heard Mr. Cooper give an in­ter­view about his newly re­leased book, which he co-wrote with his mom, Glo­ria Van­der­bilt. He de­scribed his heart­break over the death of his fa­ther when he was boy of only 10 years old. In “The Rain­bow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Loss and Love,” An­der­son de­tails his story.

I have not read the book, so I am not en­dors­ing it. But I was deeply moved by the in­ter­view, es­pe­cially when

Mr. Cooper shared that he spent many years as a child hop­ing be­yond hope that his fa­ther had left a let­ter for him. The boy searched and yearned for writ­ten words from his dad that would re­veal his love and his wis­dom, tid­bits about his life and so many things that had gone un­said.

I re­mem­ber tears welling up in my eyes when An­der­son said, “Of course, there was no let­ter.”

It was such a poignant mo­ment for me, largely be­cause I knew that I had been blessed be­yond be­lief by hav­ing a lov­ing, faith­ful fa­ther well into my adult years. I thought a lot about my dad and how very, very lucky I am to have heard him ex­press his love for me many times through­out my life. Dad died some 15 years ago, and I still miss him ev­ery day. And even though we had many years to­gether, I, like An­der­son, still wish I had a let­ter from him — some­thing I could hold in my hands.

Maybe An­der­son’s un­filled long­ing for his fa­ther’s words is just one of the rea­sons why An­der­son Cooper and I have such dif­fer­ent world­views. Cer­tainly, dads im­pact all of us. Es­pe­cially, in an aw­ful sense, the ones who are emo­tion­ally or phys­i­cally miss­ing.

I re­mem­ber be­ing at camp one sum­mer and re­ceiv­ing a lov­ing note from my dad. Homesick, I headed straight to the cabin and sat on my bed to read the let­ter in pri­vate. I ran my fin­ger across his hand­writ­ing, know­ing that he had held that same piece of pa­per in his own hands, that each curve and line was his alone. The let­ter dis­ap­peared many years ago, but the im­pact it had on me re­mains to this day.

An­der­son’s in­ter­view was well timed be­cause the im­por­tance of writ­ing let­ters to those we love is a mes­sage I try to share of­ten these days. In fact, an en­tire chap­ter of my own book that was re­leased around the same time as An­der­son’s en­cour­ages fa­thers to sit down and write a let­ter to each of their chil­dren. I pro­vide ex­am­ples, tips and lots of help in craft­ing such a time­less trea­sure in “30 Ways in 30 Days to Strengthen Your Fam­ily”.

Dads, in this week lead­ing up to Fa­ther’s Day, you’ve got an as­sign­ment: Sit down and write a let­ter to each of your chil­dren, no mat­ter how old they are. Take your time, and make sev­eral at­tempts un­til you feel good about what you have writ­ten. Maybe you need to apol­o­gize for some­thing, maybe you should say you want a new be­gin­ning. But above all else, clearly share your undy­ing love for your child and a qual­ity they have that you ad­mire. Your note doesn’t have to be per­fect. It just has to be au­then­tic.

As long as there is breath in you, it’s never too late to use the power of the writ­ten word to strengthen your re­la­tion­ship with your chil­dren. Make this Fa­ther’s Day re­ally count by writ­ing that let­ter. You just might fill a deep need in their hearts that you didn’t even know was there. At the very least, you will know that you have not left your heart’s thoughts un­said.

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