The Silence of the Damned
The Silence of the Damned
by John F. Smith, Founder, World Fathers Union
Just a fortnight from now I, like so many other fathers around the world, will exercise my right to think about my son thinking of me, while each of us sits estranged from the other on Father’s Day. Thinking is the one thing they haven’t yet figured out how to take from us, and I suppose I’ll have to be grateful for that. Beggars can’t be choosers, I am told.? ?
I haven’t laid any plans, but I’ll probably take a part of that Sunday and sit quietly somewhere, possibly holding in my hand the small, red, plastic heart my son gave me for St. Valentine’s Day when he was four, and which is worn smooth and dull from rubbing against the change in my pocket all these last four years. I’ll try to think of happier Father’s Days; of Father’s Days from a misty past, before things got this way without our quite understanding how. It’ll be difficult, but I’ll try not to think too much about why I’m alone. Dwellling upon my own misery won’t do me, or my son, any good at all.
I’ll be likely, too, to daydream of the future we both hope will be; a future wherein some miracle brings my son home. And then, inevitably, I’ll start to worry once again how it will be after all this time. Will we know each other anymore? Will my son have changed so under his mother’s vindictive tutelage that I won’t know how to react to his new ways? Might he no longer care to go fishing or walking in the woods with his old dad, and not hear me ask because he’s too busy with some electronic gadget his mother’s given him?
If I’m smart, I’ll catch myself quickly and stop all that destructive fantasising and go do something. Perhaps I’ll wash the car? No, that’s mindless work and my thoughts will drift to how much my little boy loved to help me do that. My word, but we’d be wet by the time the car was dry….
Stop it! I’ll say harshly. Get ahold of yourself, man! That way lies madness, and it is a too, too tempting madness only fathers such as we can understand. I must find something better to do, something useful, something essential. Isn’t there something that each of us can do on this coming Father’s Day, no matter where we are, no matter how rich or how poor?
Well, there is. But it’s not easy. It’s thinking of others, instead of ourselves.
Instead of falling prey to our own fears, instead of thinking bitterly of the sons and daughters from whom we are riven by an unjust system, we can each think of someone else who needs our good thoughts, someone else who knows what it’s like to be alone on Father’s Day. We can each think of each other–of all the other fathers like ourselves struggling with that sorrow and anger. And we can think of all their children crying for them from wherever.
So that is what I will do this Father’s Day, and I will do it sitting quietly on the steps of the courthouse which stole my son from me. I will sit there from Noon until One O’clock, and I will spend that hour thinking of others like myself, and of their children, and of their pain. I shall wear a black veil of mourning to hide my face and my tears, and carry a small token of my own son, and I shall not speak. I shall be silent.
I hope there will be others to come quietly and sit with me on courthouse steps all over the world, and join hands in the Silence of the Damned. You don’t need to tell me you’ll be coming; just come. Bring a friend, and a veil of mourning, and your heart. We shall all be John Smith, the Anonymous Father, on that day. Perhaps, if there are enough of us, the world will notice something’s amiss.
May 31, 2006