Here is what happens when I tell people my father didn’t finish the boat: their faces fall. Their shoulders slump. Then they begin reassuring me—as if I needed it, as if I carried the weight of shame, the family burden of failure.
I can’t wait to give them the punch line—the why of my father’s not finishing—because here is what happens: a look of shocked surprise, a momentary flash of grief, then a big smile, and, more often than not, tears in the eyes.
I feel no shame whatsoever when I say my father didn’t finish the boat; in fact, I don’t think I could be more proud of him if he had finished it. His ‘failure’ was a hands-down, slam-dunk success in fathering. He made the impossible choice: providing for his family rather than pursuing his dream, demonstrating his love for us in giving up his one and only boat. He clipped his own wings so we could fly.
That’s a level of sacrificial love we all know, rarely see, and that brings tears to eyes. The difference between success and failure—however one defines these two terms—has been the second most frequent question, spawning meditative, philosophical discussions, rational analyses, and heated debates.
One father, contemplating the impending college educations of his two children, suggested that it was a resounding success if my father’s boatbuilding could finance a college education. He wished he had a boat in his backyard to sell off!
Interesting to think that pursuing one’s dreams can launch others’ dreams…
So was my father’s boatbuilding venture a success or a failure?
Guess it depends on who you talk to.
Guess you know what I think.