The Father’s Day card I missed
Who doesn’t love Father’s Day?
Like dads all over America, I’m looking forward to a few fun greeting cards, well wishes, a nice dinner, and other expressions of love and affection from my two wonderful — now-grown — children on Sunday. It’s that one day where as a dad you feel like you can do whatever you want, because hey, it’s Father’s Day.
But, for me, this Sunday will also be another painful reminder of another Father’s Day card … the one I missed out on.
Back in the mid-80s, during my senior year of high school, I was an exchange student in Minden, Germany. And through some mutual friends, I met a girl named Susanne. We fell in love, and she became my girlfriend during the last half of my time in Germany. Within a year of my return to the states, she left her language, her family, and her country to visit her American boyfriend.
Susanne and I lost our innocence to each other in San Jose, California. I was 19.
Months later, before we decided to get married, we lost another form of innocence — also in San Jose — at the offices of Planned Parenthood.
I remember that day vividly, as Susanne was led into the room for the “procedure.” She was nervous and scared. I held her hand tightly, nervous myself. I don’t really remember agonizing much over the decision. Abortion wasn’t a big topic in school or in my life growing up, and I was pretty much “doing my own thing” with my life at that time.
Out of selfishness, we didn’t feel a baby would fit in our lives at that time. We knew we had a “choice,” and we made a choice. It’s one that I now deeply and painfully regret.
I don’t remember anyone outside the clinic trying to stop us. If there was, who knows, we might have been talked out of it. Certainly, if there was such a thing as a Stork Bus, able to show us our child’s precious heartbeat, I think I’d be looking forward to three cards this Father’s Day.
I remember looking at the machine. Hearing the whir of the suction and then seeing the tubes fill with red and then white … parts — and chunks and pieces — and red and white and red and more red … and then, the suction stopped. It was done — and declared a “success”.
We left the office. And it was over. There was no going back.
As far as I can remember, we didn’t talk about it after that incident until some 30 years later. I called her to ask if I could share our story and hear her thoughts and memories. She assured me that I didn’t pressure her into the decision; we made it together. But that didn’t make me feel any better.
Susanne, now 52, has never had kids.
The one question I needed to ask her — “Did the abortion affect your body in such a way that it prevented you from having kids?” She said – “No” but little did we know that this had been her only chance at motherhood. I thanked her for her willingness to share and told her I was sorry. It was a painful conversation for both of us.
This Father’s Day, I’ll reflect on the choice I made, thinking about what could have happened had I made a different choice.
Sharing this story isn’t easy. It’s painful, and it’s awkward. But I have a duty to share it, because I don’t want my missing Father’s Day card to be missing in vain. By hearing what happened to me, I know that somewhere out there, someone who is reading this can throw an arm around a young person in a similar situation and help them avoid this mistake.
Tell them to think not just about the moment, but how this will choice affect your life five, 10, or 20 years down the road, the way it has affected my life and those of 55 million other men in this country. Men who have been suffering in silence for far too long.
It’s time for us to speak up, share our stories, and let the next generation know that they have a much better choice. Choose fatherhood.
Doug Griffin is a nationally syndicated radio host on the “Today’s Christian Music” Network including their flagship station, Nashville’s 94FM The Fish.