Dad's are important after all, in spite of the fact that Father's Day is for most of the nation little more than a second tier holiday. It's certainly one without the stature and hype of Mother's Day (though it's still enough of a holiday to warrant its own mattress sales). Ties sales leading up to it are not nearly what flower sales are for that of its female gender comparative (probably because ties have seen similar decrease in primacy ... another sad victim of the practice of 'Casual Friday' that has become 'Casual Every Day').
It used to be famous however, as the day on which the Bell Telephone company made fortune from having more collect long distance calls made than on any other day, though like Ma Bell that's mostly disappeared since the advent of cell phone packages. (That's right, go ahead and think about it for a minute and the reason will come to you.) For me, the subject and the holiday take on three separate aspects that I suppose I need to address if this is to be a proper effort.
The first has to do with the parents that my children have become. I could not be any prouder of the father that my step-son Joe Highman has become with the three that he calls his own. The testament to his (though I should perhaps say their) skills are the results that have produced with his wife Laura where Michael, Madeleine, and Andrew are concerned. It therefore cannot go without saying that the natural pride of a grandparent in three pretty good looking and outstanding young people is doubled and redoubled in the recognition of the parenting skills of one who I once considered a child.
My son-in-law Jim Demaria has likewise proved himself an able and loving parent. With my daughter Laura, they have produced a couple of young ladies attractive enough to no doubt give their parents fits in the years ahead when dating begins. These two grand-offspring are likewise a tribute (and because Jim is a professional photographer and documentary film maker, a well documented tribute) to the parenting skills of two very busy parents. Their children are two very young people who will go far in life because of the upbringing that they continue to be provided with.
As for my son Sean ... while the only one of my offspring without any of his own, he is usually the beloved favorite of all his nephews and nieces; and seems to find endless amusement in their entertainment. The talent therefore seems to be present, whether he chooses some day to use it in his own life or not.
The second aspect naturally enough, has to do with a look back on the parent that I have been in my life. Now I have often believed that there were a number of skills that I possessed, but I can't recall that parenting was ever one of them. (Dancing was another skill in which I was totally lacking, but that's a tale for another day.) I'm sure that such feelings are natural enough in any of us, and that there is a genetic component involved in feeling that we have somehow never done enough where our offspring are concerned. In my case however, I found myself wrapped up in a career which now seems all but meaningless instead of in their lives the way I wish I had been. I was likewise far too often checking up on them from a hotel room hundreds of miles away instead of tucking them in at night.
I allow myself no excuses for my own lack of diligence in this critical part of my personal responsibilities; but gladly give due credit to the three good women involved with my children's upbringing. (As well as my two wives, I also acknowledge the influence of my own mother on them, especially on Sean and Laura in their early years.) Again I point to the results of the efforts of these three women (that being three children that I couldn't be more proud of), who took up the slack from my slacking. While I still don't see any of my progeny as much as I would like to, that I retain a good relationship with all of them remains a source of both relief and pride for me.
No discussion of fatherhood would of course be complete unless I spoke of my own, one in which I was truly blessed. I was raised by man who knew a life of responsibility and self-reliance, and did his best to pass it on to me. In spite of spending most of my younger days working 3rd shift, he was still able to find the time to show me how to throw and catch a baseball or football (as much as my skills would allow anyway), how to cast a fishing line (without throwing the pole into the lake like some sisters I know), how to tune up a car (at least before they put computers on them), and how to build or fix damn near anything that I would ever need in life.
Not having settled for providing more than the normal parental responsibilities, he went on to mentor and apprentice me in an industry in which he was a world-recognized expert. Having presented me with the tools to earn my place in life, he went on later to open even more doors for me; becoming a co-worker, manager, and a unreachable goal of accomplishment to set my sights on. No one was a more demanding task master, a more discriminating critic, and a more fierce advocate. Though not perhaps a demonstrably affectionate man where I was concerned, there was never any question in my life as to the fierce love that was always there.
As I write this morning in fact, I find myself all too keenly and painfully acknowledging the conversations that we can no longer have.
So it seems fitting that should once again end an effort on Father's Day with some of the wisdom that I believe he taught me, that I have shared here before, and that hopefully I too have passed on where it can do the most good:
* That honesty is the best policy, even if your only reward is that of self-respect.
* That your word is your bond and everything else is just society's crap.
* That your reputation is the only thing that you truly possess in life, so make sure you protect it.
* That if you work hard it will be rewarded, even if that reward is nothing more that knowing that you did your best.
* That you will make mistakes in life, but they are rarely permanent; and that it's usually easier to fix them than to admit to them.