The Blessing

The Blessing

Growing up, what did you want your father to say to you?

What words did you crave from him? What words from him were you dying, literally dying, to hear? What I wanted my father to say to me was pretty simple.

Son, I'm proud of you.

That's it, that's what I wanted more than anything. And he could have said it anytime – after I brought home yet another "A"; after I scored ten points in a basketball game; after I wrote a poem; after I was nice to my sister.

Son, I'm proud of you.

Or what would have been even better, he could have said it when I hadn't accomplished anything so concrete and worthy. He could have said it first thing in the morning, while I was eating cornflakes at the kitchen table. He could have said it at night, right before he closed my bedroom door.

Son, I'm proud of you.

If he had said it then, it would have meant even more. It would have meant:

Son, you don't have to make the honor roll or the basketball team. You're good enough just as you are. Right now, without accomplishing another thing. You can relax. You're enough.

I didn't know I was enough.

If I wasn't doing something important, accom­plishing something, achieving something, I felt I was worthless.

But I think my father could have reassured me that that wasn't true; he could have convinced me that even if I wasn't working, I was worthy. I think he's the only person in the world who could have convinced me of that.

Son, I'm proud of you. Without changing a thing, you're enough.

If I had heard that growing up – even once, clearly, sincerely, definitively – I think I would have come to believe I wouldn't always be this boy working his ass off so he can feel good about himself, feel strong, feel like a man.

I suspect I would have finally come to believe the essential underlying message that only my father could convince me of:

Son, you have all it takes to be a strong, loving man.

This is what I wanted my father to say to me while I was growing up, and I wanted him to hug me when he said it. This is The Blessing. I wanted my father to give me The Blessing.

Son, I'm proud of you. You're enough. You have all it takes to be a strong, loving man.

I suspect you, too, wanted your father to give you The Blessing. Maybe not in exactly the same words, but in the same spirit:

Son, you're OK, you're a man. I love you.

I suspect, like me, you craved his Blessing, would damn near have died for his Blessing – although you might have had to pretend it didn't mean shit to you.

And maybe you're still pretending that. Or maybe you've filled the hole opened in you by not getting The Blessing with so many addictions you've for­gotten what you originally craved.

Or maybe you've never forgotten that – all your life you've been acutely aware of not getting what you wanted from your father – but have had absolutely no idea how to get It.

Welcome to my world. Welcome to the world of most sons. Welcome to the world of Unblessed Sons.

Son, I'm sorry I never said the words you so wanted to hear. They were always here in my heart, and sometimes, oh so many times, they were right there on my lips ... I'm sorry for the pain I caused by not finding a way to hug you and to speak them. Let me say them now, let me hug you like you wanted to be hugged, and let me say them to you now: Son, I'm proud of you. You're strong, you're loving, you're a man. I honor all that you are, and all that you are becoming. I am blessed to have you as my son.

Peter Putnam