Via Basel: On this Father’s Day

Art by Mike Worrall

A Father, a Grandfather, a Man

These three words can be defined in several ways, biologically and genetically, culturally, socially, and even symbolically. There is a common theme of maleness, which has some defined attributes, XY chromosome, testosterone, strength, aggressiveness, and more. In pre-agricultural eras, the male was the hunter; then as humans settled down he became the protector, provider, and head of household in many ancient societies. War, conquest, and dominion were and still are associated with the male gender. Other attributes of physical skills, courage, loyalty, and leadership were attributed to “men” and still are to a certain degree. I am not putting a value judgment on the above, just stating them as scientific, historical, and anthropological facts in general. 

Personally, on this Father’s Day, how does this all make sense to me as a member of all three categories? Yes, I have read about fatherhood in general, but I’ve carried the stories of my ancestors, had intimate experiences with my own family, and less so with others in my community. I still struggle even in this late stage of my life to define these words, father, grandfather, and man, in a way worthy of their deepest meanings. 

I play many roles in fatherhood. Genetically, I am an actual father to Mandy and my late Chris, and a grandfather to Sophie and Ava. I am a father-in-law to Thomas by marriage. Also a stepfather to Sue from my late wife Roz and a step-grandfather to her children. In addition, I am a “fatherly figure” to a few younger men as I attempt to mentor them. These are all aspects of fatherhood that deserve to be celebrated and expanded on. My lived experience in all these roles, my errors, my shortfalls, and my successes have made me understand something. The old model of strict disciplinarian and emotionally detached father needs to be replaced by a humbler, caring, and more nurturing model, an all-knowing one by a modest and engaging one. Above all, the characteristics of manhood as the essence of fatherhood can be reassessed, keeping the healthy ones, protection, courage, and loyalty, and discarding aggressive and dominant attitudes.

The world desperately needs a father image today of a gentle, caring, sharing, forgiving, and giving, yet imperfect man. We cannot afford the old model leading to domination, violence, and misery. That, my fellow fathers, is our only hope. Let us dedicate ourselves to our sons, daughters, and future generations.


Allow me to share some of the joy and sorrow of fatherhood as exemplified by a treasured letter, undated, from Chris, my late son, probably a few years before his passing in 2010, with a haunting last sentence.

Dear Dad,

We must have the same karma, being that everything you fall in love with, I fall in love with – and I’m familiar with the Freudian ‘father’s approval’ and I don’t think it’s that – I love meditating, running, yoga, reading literature, writing and partly what I get from you is to share my love of these things with – we’re like two buddies sharing the same interests – I do see a lot of myself in you and don’t worry it’s all good stuff. You mentioned will power on the phone the other day and I sure have enough of that – but I think what I have to remember is that, though I’m an achiever and a perfectionist, there’s nothing to achieve, nothing to perfect, nowhere to get to, and nothing to attain – – will power has a way of deceiving us into the idea that we don’t have it all right – – but we do, it’s all Right here in the PRESENT MOMENT AND SO MUCH MORE…we’re striving to be someone too, and there’s no one to be – that’s the beauty – my self images, projections, desires they’re definitely ‘not me’ – no one to be, except here and now. 

Someone once asked the Buddha, “Who are you?” and he replied, “I AM AWAKE.” 

The truth is there’s so much more room for us to BE in the present moment as it unfolds… Oh by the way this was supposed to be A THANK YOU CARD – I’m truly grateful to be your son and I have a lot to learn from you, so stick around, will ya?

                                                  Love, Chris

Chris…I kept my promise, still holding you close to my heart….


Basel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Christopher Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, writing, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family; now, semi-retired, he is exploring new avenues in medicine, education, public speaking, teaching, and social engagement.

Escape Into Chris–Father’s Day Special

Via Basel: A Milestone and a Celebration

Father’s Day 2014: A Father’s Welcome

One response to “Via Basel: On this Father’s Day”

  1. Mary Madden says:

    Basel, you do define these words, father, grandfather, mentor and man so eloquently and well worthy of their deepest meanings. Using your own words, you are a humble, caring, loyal nurturer in your relationships with family, friends, mentees and beyond. I see it in your day to day interactions with everyone, whether you know them or not.
    Chris’ letter is yet another beloved testament to your engagement with your son through many shared activities and treasured conversations. His written sentiments are concrete evidence of the deep connection between you two. Who writes such beautiful, heartfelt words? Someone who was so very grateful to have you as his father, that’s who! I know you hold him in your heart always. I believe Chris too, holds you close to his heart in the realm of his present moment, his current here and now.
    You have a heart of gold! So often you lead your many encounters with your heart and being a wise, intelligent and intuitive man, you always take your brain along too.
    Best wishes to a perfectly, imperfect man who deserves to be celebrated not just on Father’s Day but everyday as well!
    With fondest regards,

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