Nobody’s perfect, not even mom and dad, but I believe every child deserves two parents who never do anything they believe in advance will hurt their children. I had one parent like that, my wife had two, and I believe my kids have two as well.
I told you my favorite Father’s Day story three years ago, but I’m going to repeat it right now.
It’s an image that my daughter gave me a while ago. She said that when she was a toddler, she thought she was very strong because she could push open some really heavy doors. She learned later that I was standing behind her and reaching over her head to help her push.
That’s what daddies do, isn’t it? We help our children to do what they have to do. Sometimes we do it out in the open and sometimes, as in opening those big, heavy doors, we do it behind their backs, or over their heads, or both. Sometimes, we have to resist the temptation to do it for them. We have to let them do it for themselves, so they can grow up.
My dad was a very smart, and very uneducated man. Why was he uneducated? Obligation. It seems to me his whole life was about obligation. I know he sacrificed his childhood for his mom, brothers and sisters. He quit school to support them after eighth grade because his father died three years earlier. He didn’t marry until he was 38 years old and when he did, he and my mom continued to support and live with his mother. I never knew my dad’s mother and she only knew I existed, but never saw me. She died three days after I was born.
He retired as a police officer as soon as he was eligible to, in order to please my mother, not himself. He took real pride in being a cop. He kept his uniforms in a wardrobe in the attic until he died. We threw them out after that. My son has his police night stick, the one made of teak wood so it won’t float. It won’t break if you hit something with it either. My son also has his police tie clasp. My sister gave it to him, and he wore it when he was admitted to the bar.
He sacrificed a lot for his kids too, including sending me money that he needed himself when I was a freshman in college. This grade-school graduate had two kids. Both of them have master’s degrees, but he died before either of us graduated from college. He never met any of his four grandchildren. When it looked like my son would be left-handed, it made me pine for my dad who was a lefty too. He liked little children a whole lot more than he liked most adults. His grandchildren all went to college too. One of them has a post-doctoral education.
My dad has been gone for a long, long time. Sometimes I miss him a lot more than you would think after all these years.
My father-in-law was a special guy too. Virtually every teenage boy is interested in one of only two things, and I don’t give a damn about football. He welcomed me into his home and was nice to me when I took an interest in his seventeen-year-old daughter who would one day be canonized as Saint Karen (she has to be a saint to put up with me). If all my in-laws ever did for me was allow me to date their daughter, I could never repay them. They did so much more and wouldn’t let us even give them gifts, let alone try to repay them. They welcomed me into their family and were far nicer to me than most of my blood relatives.
Both my father and my father-in-law are dead, but I remember them and I remember that I was blessed in the father department.