The single greatest honor ever bestowed upon me, and without my earning or deserving it, was fatherhood. When I consider my greatest accomplishment, it is without question my role as a dad. My father was my hero. My grandfather was the greatest man that ever lived according to my dad. And so I have that wonderful legacy that strengthens me to this day.
Children who grow up without a dad have a hole in their lives that cannot be filled with any other substitution. The memories, lessons, ideals and examples given to me by my dad are as much a part of me as my arms and legs. I shudder to think what kind of a man I would have become without his influence in my life.
My dad taught me how to cry. I learned that lesson as a 12 year-old, watching him do so openly and freely in the entryway to our church as we were about to go inside the sanctuary for my uncles funeral. That simple, seemingly incidental moment was anything but unimportant. What that act showed me was that even strong men can cry. Even strong men are affected with grief and letting it out must have been ok and even manly, because my father was doing it. Without that lesson, many men bottle up their emotions and this leads them into very troubling paths. My dad demonstrated to me how it was properly done, just one of hundreds of lessons.
My kids are grown and gone far away. There was no good reason to stay close to their birthplaces, the jobs outlook in upstate New York was as bleak and grey as the winter skies so famous in Broome County. Divorce and parents living states apart did nothing to encourage the preservation of an extended family unit keep intact and together. And so even as I celebrate my good fortune in being a dad, I mourn the passing of the old ways and the rituals that I enjoyed. Like every Sunday visits to my grand parents after church. Late afternoon Sunday home-cooked meals with family around a big table in the dining room of our warm house. Family trips every other week to the grocery store followed by supper at Henry’s hamburgers, precursor to what would later be commonly known as fast-food restaurants.
If our society continues to discount the value of fathers and pretend as if their absence in the children’s lives is something that can be tolerated, substituted or even in some cases celebrated, we will certainly careen into our own downfall.
The entirety of our societal woes begins with the discounting of the importance of an intact, two-parent household. The lessons learned within the family translate directly into our relationships with one another in the larger context of our society. Children suffering without this familial compact are largely undomesticated and then become drains on the societal institutions designed to pick up the pieces from this lack of family responsibility.
New fathers need to wake up and grow up.