Archive for Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Father set wonderful example for son

June 11, 2008

There probably won't be the huge crowds in the malls this week and tables will be available at restaurants. Father's Day has never been as widely observed as Mother's Day. Yet, the role of being a father and grandfather continues to be an extremely important part of the fabric of modern society.

It is interesting to note that the United States is unique in its observance of Father's Day. I have read a couple of sources that state that the modern observance of Father's Day has some similarity to the Roman observance of "Parentalia." This was a multi-day celebration designed to appease the souls of departed fathers.

The first Father's Day observance in the USA was in 1909 in Spokane, Wash., and was the brainchild of Mrs. John Bruce Dodd. She put together a coalition of churches and the YMCA to initiate the celebration. Now, there are those skeptics among us who grouse that Father's Day is merely a retail ploy designed to boost sales between Easter and Mother's Day and the lucrative "back to school" market. Despite the criticism, I believe that it is important to annually honor fathers and refocus on their roles.

Men have so much that they can give their children beyond the financial necessities of life. Even though my father has been gone for more than 50 years, I can recall some powerful examples that I got from him.

Let me point out that what he gave me wasn't monetary. He was a grade school custodian and didn't make much money. In addition, he had some health problems and my mother died after a lengthy illness, which resulted in bills that he struggled to pay. We didn't own a car or TV set or have indoor plumbing. I was 19 when he died and thanks to some understanding creditors, I was allowed to wait until after I graduated from college to pay off the remaining bills.

So, you might ask, what did he leave me? Something far more important than money. I had a great example of selfless community service from a man who truly cared about others. He was a talented carpenter and made sets for school plays and for other community events. Before his health started to fail, he was a volunteer fireman. My father taught me to give of myself to help the community.

He spent a number of years as Scoutmaster of Troop 126 in Garnett and put together a group of volunteers who provided us with a great program. This was particularly tough for him because he had to walk everywhere and had to ask for volunteers to provide transportation for the troop members.

Yet, when I run into people from my past, many tell me how much my father did to help them. How he was always there with a good word or compliment. Probably the best tribute to him was that a minister who grew up in Garnett used my father in a sermon as an example of service and concern for others. The minister also emphasized how much he had meant to him when he was growing up. Despite never having enough money, my father was, indeed, a rich man.

He also pushed me to get an education. I spent summers as a child with him at the school and often got to help with thrilling chores such as scraping gum from desks. If I was reading a book or encyclopedia, he would never make me stop and return to work. It wasn't long before I was reading for pleasure and knowledge, not just to escape chores.

He taught me the value of hard work and to never quit trying. Yes, I inherited much from him that was more valuable than money. He was a good man who did all that he could to make his portion of the world a better place and his greatest honor is that people today still remember him and his accomplishments. I'm sorry that he didn't live to know my wife, Jean, her parents and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He loved baseball and I'm sorry that I couldn't take him to major-league baseball games or other activities. He would have burst with pride when his great-grandsons became Eagle Scouts.

Recently, I was asked about what I wanted for Father's Day and I answered that I didn't need a thing; I had it all right now. I have had a wonderful marriage, three intelligent and well-educated daughters and best of all, seven grandchildren. I enjoy watching them succeed and do well in school. I get great joy at attending their sporting events and activities. I have enjoyed being part of their lives and look forward to more exciting times in the future.

Of all that I have done in my life, the hardest but most rewarding task was that of being a father. I hope that everyone has a enjoyable Father's Day and that all of us commit ourselves to being good role models for the generations who will follow us.

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