Growing up in Louisa – Father’s Day
Weekly feature . . . by Mike Coburn
Another year, another Father’s Day. As I sit down to write something relating to memories of my growing up and the affect that fathers generally had upon life, I have to think about other people’s fathers. You see, I never knew my father, or for that matter any stories about him. I was already out of high school when I first learned his name. He did try to contact me at that time, but by then I couldn’t imagine that such a disruption in life would be beneficial for either of us. I refused.
I was never told anything relating how ‘I happened,’ leaving me to deduce that all might not be ‘right and proper.’ When I asked relatives about the subject they all went silent or just brushed me off. If I ever saw my father, I didn’t know it. I suspected that my family remained quiet to allow mom to take the role of explaining. It was her lifelong habit to procrastinate when faced with problems. I wanted to believe that she would tell me whenever she thought me mature enough to understand. Inside I feared that if I pried too much I’d find out something I wouldn’t want to hear. I shrugged and acted like mom and put off the negative. Whatever it was, it was what it was, so it wasn’t anything I could change. Therefore, it was not really important. Life continued over the years without calamity or trauma so ‘what the heck?’ After all, I was being sufficiently nurtured by a loving family and I had loads of great friends. I reckoned the value of knowing what happened was dubious.
There are many studies of the effects on children of living in a single parent household. By far the worst scenarios are those where a mother (figure) is missing, but there are effects enough to fear when the home lacks ‘proper’ male input, too. It’s not just the missed fishing trips, the times spent working on cars, but it’s the leadership that men can and should provide for the whole family. It’s not just the ‘quality’ time but the whole investment into life. I think it sad that fatherless homes are rapidly becoming the norm. I think that speaks volumes about lack of character and the selfishness of some of my gender, and the lack of responsible male models.
To make a blanket statement that the absence of a father is detrimental to the family is a generality that may not always be true; however, to say the lack of a good father figure is almost always detrimental for the family is fair. Of course some fathers are such that their absence may actually be a blessing, but let’s not use that model to emulate. There are also homes where the father has not returned from war. We must honor those households and stand ready to help and honor the whole family where we can. Remember, all the family has suffered and given everything to us.
My intent is to look at what the presence of a father should mean to a family. Of course the father should add income for the well-being of the family. That can’t be discounted, but surely there’s more than that. Let us look at a model worth striving for whose influence is truly important.
Firstly, a father adds strength. I’m speaking of a strength of character; not mere physical attributes, although there are places where manly muscle can be useful, too. I mean to suggest that strength of leadership, knowledge and wisdom is key. That gives a model worth repeating in the generations to follow. This characteristic has its root in the notion that the ideal father has integrity and is a resource of knowledge. The man who carries out that role is looked up to by the family and all those who know him. It’s a very worthwhile thing. There are many studies that trace the lives of both boys and girls when a father is absent. The results are often tragic personally to the child, but also to the generations to follow.
Secondly, a father must purpose to be dependable. His wife and the rest of the family knows assuredly that he will perform the role to the best of his ability. That adds a layer of trust and comfort, and builds his influence with others. He provides a cover under which the family can grow by this layer of protection. This is a demonstration of selflessness and love.
Thirdly, the father needs to restrain his impulse to criticize or complain, but instead is understanding and compassionate. A good father recognizes that overcoming failures leads to more important victories. The lesson to pick up our losses and overcome is something we all must learn and allow to be learned by those growing into adulthood. That isn’t to say that acceptance of wrong-doing is a goal, but rather more important is forgiveness, encouragement, and the support to overcome adversity. That is the greater target.
Humility has got to be next. There is little worse than parental arrogance, or pride. ‘I am the boss’ attitude tends to make one unapproachable, leaving the family no options when problems occur. Rebellion is the nature result when it is felt that wife or child are not heard. How much better it is for the father to understate his self-worth in celebration of the family’s victories. A good man has nothing to prove except to show he loves and cares about his family. That should be shown by living for them instead of himself.
How about being a pal? Well, there’s something to be said about seeing your kids and enjoying the time when the family is together. There need be no walls to prevent a child from hugging, or that would prevent a dad from saying “I love you.” Sharing all of life, not just the ‘important’ times, is what really brings the best bonding. Building memories is a treasure for the future generations. It is a legacy worth leaving.
I have tried to be these things, but being all too human, I have failed in all these areas at times. Knowing that I slipped up reason to pick up and press on to that ‘fatherly’ calling. The family that experiences having a faithful father is blessed indeed. That father will bask in the reflected love. It can get no better than that.
The trend toward fatherless homes cannot be good. The model I see for the next generations are not very appealing. Certainly there are many causes for absences, some reasonable, some not. Regardless, the goal ought to be to restore the father to his faithful position. I believe that it is the father’s job to be the leader, the priest, the lover, the teacher, and the provider. My hat is off to those that carry it off. We should encourage more to try.
As I grew up I had surrogate models. As explained early on in this writing, they weren’t mine, per se. Johnny Bill’s dad was very much a dad to me, as was Bill Elkins, Sr., and others that I watched as they interacted in the community. In those days it was common to have fathers that were a part of the family, which did all the things I’ve outlined, and for that I am grateful. I have vowed to be that kind of a father to my kids and now my grandkids. They know I have tried and I see them modeling the same behaviors in their families. I am blessed by seeing them be good dads. I can see the love they have for their children, and the love the children have for them. By this, every day is a Happy Father’s Day!