Over on Facebook, a lot of people I know are replacing their photo with one of their father, in honor of Father’s Day. Its a wonderful conceit, sort of like putting up a flag on flag day (which we did btw), but it is not one I feel like doing. This post is about why.
My father was an interesting man. Strong, handsome, sharp as a tack, and oftentimes quite funny. He grew up a honest-to-goodness real cowboy, like the rest of his family. A tough independent bunch of hombres if you ever saw ’em. Unlike the rest of the family, however he also looked the part. His looks and his manner branded him the quintessential cowboy, the hero of every western. Had he grown up is Southern California, there’s a good chance he would have ended up in the movies. Unlike the popular cowboys of radio and the silver screen, Dad was also a “real” cowboy. He knew how to ride, knew how to manage cattle, he competed in rodeo events, and he won a gold medal in the FFA nationals his senior year in high school.
Growing up, he cast a big shadow.
Dad was a good father in terms of making sure there was meat on the table. He worked hard so I could go to college, and do well in school. I never lacked for much materially as a child, thanks to a large part by his efforts. I never went hungry, never lacked for shoes, clothes, coats, that sort of thing. Now mom worked too, so it wasn’t all him, but he did provide for his family.
He also was happy to lead us on summer vacations, whether it was sailing in the Lido 14, or fishing in a creek. Dad was always game for taking us to the great outdoors.
This, and many other things made my father a great father. I respect him for his efforts, and I wish he were still alive today so I could thank him for them.
When Trevor was born, and it was my turn to be a father, I had to really think about what I wanted to be as a father. Since that day (a bit over 10 years ago) I have tried to follow my father’s footsteps in terms of leadership, in terms of visiting the great outdoors, and in terms of making sure my son does not want for anything materially. But I have also been careful to not be like my father in some ways.
My son will know he is loved by his father. It will never be a question for him. Sure he will think me an ass at times (I am an ass at times), but he will always know my love. Likewise he will always know when I fail. When I have done wrong, especially when I have caused him pain, he will hear my heartfelt apology. I need him to know that being a man is not about being right all the time, but about owning your successes, and your failures, for surely there is no man alive who does not carry both. Finally, my son will always know my support. Mind you he will always know my criticism too. If he pisses off a gang of hoodlums, and they are right outside our door demanding his blood, I will call him a stupid ass, but I will do this while I am loading up my rifle. There is no direction he can go I will not back him, as long as he is not harming himself or others. Even if I think it is a damn stupid thing to do, I will support him. Why? Because no man can see the future. If Lady Gaga had approached her father 5 years ago and said, “Dad. I want to dress up in freaky outfits, and sing bizarre pop songs,” I’m quite sure his response would have been WTF??!!! Now because of her dream, he gets to choose which house he will live in this month.
My father (and my mother) taught me a lot, and gifted me greatly, but when it came down to how I wanted to parent, I needed to toss some of their ideas out the window. I can only hope that my own son, when he becomes a father, will have the wisdom to do the same.