Let us pause a moment from the endless angst and anguish over racial issues, the uncertainty of the status of COVID-19, faulty voting machines and who is to blame, political campaigns that seem to have no end, a hemorrhaging state budget and no Major League baseball. Sunday, June 21, is Father’s Day. What better time to pay homage to a special group of unsung heroes — dads.
I used to say that without dads there would be no moms, but given a world I increasingly don’t understand, I guess somebody has probably figured out how to make babies without dad’s help. I really don’t want to know.
It is on Father’s Day I find myself measuring my accomplishments as a father against my own dad’s. I always fall short. Far short.
When my dad died in 1984, he owned a little five-room house valued at $12,000 and an $800 life insurance policy. That was his total estate. This, after having worked for one company — Railway Express Agency — for 49 years and 4 months.
He worked outside and at night most of those years right up to his retirement. In that time, which I calculate to be 2,596 weeks, he missed exactly 3 of those weeks and not one day more due to being hospitalized for an appendectomy. Today, that would probably be an outpatient procedure, if they even do such things anymore.
Clearly, he was not financially astute. I suspect he had a lot of opportunities to invest in the stock market or buy real estate or set up savings accounts over his lifetime. He did none of these things and I never knew why. I think had I asked him, he would have said that financial investments were not as important to him as investing in his family, which he did to the max.
While he had only a seventh grade education and a hard-scrabble upbringing, he lived long enough to see both his boys graduate from college and go on to successful careers in their respective fields. That was investment enough for him.
He was a great role model for my brother, Bob, and me. Our dad wasn’t a touchy-feely guy but we knew how much he loved us even if he didn’t say it. We didn’t go fishing with him or play pitch in the backyard or take family camping trips. Instead, we saw how hard he worked and observed his integrity, his honesty and his ability to discern right from wrong which no amount of rationalization could change — and believe me, I tried.
He wasn’t all business all the time, however. Like most dads, his jokes were corny and oft-repeated even though he acted as if he was telling them for the first time. We played along with him. He enjoyed his own jokes too much to spoil the fun.
Like our national anthem and the American flag, respect for dads has been in a decline for some time. Watch television commercials. Have you noticed that it is usually the father who is the bumbler, only to be rescued from his bonehead mistakes by a patient and understanding wife and their two bemused kids? It is after we dads have been properly demeaned that the advertiser tries to sell us something. I’ve never quite grasped the logic of that. I guess they think we are too dumb to see the irony.
I am always struck by the surroundings where dad goofs up — usually a very nice and well-appointed home, sometimes even with a swimming pool. I wonder how the family ended up in such a place, if not through dad’s hard work. Or did Mom inherit the place from her own goofy father? Plus, if her husband is so inept and she is so smart, why did she marry him in the first place?
In a time when racial equality is on everyone’s minds, I am pleased to report that I am beginning to see black dads doing dumb stuff in television commercials while their own families shake their heads at their foibles. That’s a relief. For a while I thought only white guys could be the ignoramuses. Watch out, Asians, you could be next.
I guess in today’s stifling politically correct world, dads are about the last target left that we can twit without righteous indignation from special interest groups or social media protests. There is no Dads’ Lives Matter or #dad,too. We’re just plain old dads. And proud of it. Happy Father’s Day to all.