Ah, Father’s Day, that most inexplicable holiday in the calendar. Children, wives and the fathers themselves walk around that day with confused expressions on their faces. What are they all supposed to be doing, or feeling or even pretending to be feeling?
Everyone understands Mother’s Day. The bond between mothers and their children is self-explanatory. Even the act of becoming a mother to a child is one of self-sacrifice and love. Even husbands are unable to be completely selfish on Mother’s Day. We’re forced to acknowledge that our role in the circle of life is the easier side. And we do. Every man in a good marriage honors his wife on Mother’s Day and tries to show some class on that day. And so, he encourages his children to gather around his wife and celebrate the nurturing nature of mothers.
But Father’s Day? I mean, we try to be good fathers. We spend time with our kids and teach them things and show affection. But do we want to be applauded and be fussed over about our role in the family?
What we’d prefer is to get up late, have a nice big breakfast, watch some really bad movie or go fishing or read a book then have a steak dinner and then watch another bad movie and go to bed. Of course, this leaves room for variation. Maybe instead of fishing you’d rather work on restoring an old car or head to the gun range or have a catch with your grandson or something. And I even know some fathers who aren’t happy unless they’re doing home repair projects on their day off. There’s a natural range.
One of my favorite fatherhood memories was taking my son to the north shore of Lake Champlain to fish for pike and bass. It was a long trip and we didn’t know any of the local details for fishing so we tried a row boat which turned out to be a dicey thing on a lake with a particularly strong current. But we caught some fish and ate some bad food and spent a memorable weekend together as father and son.
I guess it’s natural for us to think of our own fathers and try to figure out how we stack up. My own father had six sons and he spent most of his time with us trying to stop us from hitting each other quite so much. He was one of the most aggravated individuals I can remember. He was just outnumbered was his problem. But deep down I think he liked us most of the time. And since I feel that about him, I would conclude that he was a successful father.
So really none of us get to decide if we were successful at fatherhood. It’s the kids who get the last word (although the wives probably would like to add a footnote or two as usual). So, if after they’re grown, they’re still talking to you and if from time to time they still talk about any of the things you did together, then a case can be made for you as a good father. Anyway, that’s my take.
June is the month of graduations. And right on schedule I attended two graduations this weekend. The first one was a very minor but poignant event. Our littlest grandchild, Princess Sack of Potatoes was finishing up her year of gym class. Camera Girl and I dutifully showed up at this august occasion and watched through the glass as our little athlete tumbled and climbed and performed the baby steps version of gymnastics on balance beams and parallel bars and rings. We applauded and made all the right noises while she and her variously gifted team mates impressed their parents and relatives. Afterwards she got a heavy iron star shaped medal spray painted with gold to wear around her neck and then we all went to our favorite local steakhouse and enjoyed some red meat. I got the ribeye.
Then today was a more important milestone my oldest grandson graduated from high school with high honors and full scholarship to the local college of his choice. As was fitting for this more serious occasion, the ceremony took a few hours, if you include the process of showing up early enough to get good seats and parking spots at the outdoor ceremony. The girl who gave the valedictory address was appropriately eloquent and choked with emotion. Although some gusts of wind threatened to blow away the pages of her speech and her graduation cap. But Camera Girl and I agreed that the speeches were well spoken and heartfelt, as the moment required. We took the requisite photos as the diploma was handed to our young scholar and I even captured the capstone shot of the class tossing their caps into the air. And afterwards we once again headed to that same steakhouse and partook of red meat. This time I just had a burger since my son-in-law was paying and I am not unaware of the costs in raising four children in today’s brutal economic situation.
And when we got home Camera Girl and I agreed that it was the perfect weekend. Of course, tomorrow is Father’s Day, that least understood holiday on the calendar. When we’re young we would make a card for our father and later on we would buy him a tie and maybe at some point later in life we would get him some artifact that might be associated with one of his pastimes or for home improvement. Now that I’ve reached grandfather status Father’s Day is sort of a stretch. My sons-in-law are the objects of this ritual and they will be forced to express gratitude for the well-meaning but mostly useless gifts.
But all fathers know that the true gift every father is looking for is represented by the ceremony I attended today. When a father has a son who makes the transition from boy to man that is the reward for years and decades of working to make him a functional member of society and hopefully puts him on the road to being able to have a family of his own. And in a similar way, when a daughter grows up and starts a family of her won it is the realization of this same process. It is the continuation of the human race. We provide them a good home and try to teach children what a family is about and hope they’ll try to copy this pattern and produce their own home in the future.
By any definition of conservatism, that is the most essential component of conservative life; to replicate the circle of life. To conserve the family. In fact, regardless of what we do in the political realm as far as constitutional freedoms and rights, if we don’t manage to reproduce our families into the next generation then we have failed utterly and our story ends there. We’ll have to step aside and let someone more adept at human relations take a whack at it.
Tomorrow I’ll get calls from my kids and maybe my grandkids (although that’s a usurpation of their fathers’ prerogatives of the day) and I’ll be pleased as can be that they remember me on the day. But the great victory is counting those grandchildren and being allowed to share a little in their lives and their accomplishments and knowing that the circle continues and some part of me lives on both genetically and in the traditions and memories that we have built.
Whenever I talk to them, I stress (probably excessively) that they have family that cares about them and will be there if they need help. I want them to know they are part of a group that they can depend on and that can depend on them too.
So Happy Father’s Day. Make some memories with those kids. It’s probably the most important work you’ll ever do as a conservative but more importantly as a man.
If you are a father, then force your family to give you just a few hours off today to do something fun, even that’s just catching up on sleep. If you have a father that did his job and he’s still around call him up and wish him a nice day and if he’s gone take a minute to think of the best memories you have of him and the things he did for you.
Every man who had a father who sacrificed for him and tried to raise him right owes it to any children he has to pay forward what he received before.
At least, that’s how it seems to me now.
Here’s a bonus quote for the day.
When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.
After you’ve read enough sexbot articles on Drudge maybe switch to something interesting