Fathers are odd creatures. At least the ones I know are — not any single mold, no real unifying characteristics. Some are very loving — nurturing, even — others are sometimes cranky. While yet others are newly fledged, and learning to fly (my elder son, for instance… :)).
My own father remains tall and trim in my mental picture of him. Standing in front of the family car, lovingly polished by Hà , the Việtnamese chauffeur. I don’t remember ever seeing my father wash a car, although I watched him clean and polish his rifles and pistols many times. The banana fragrance of gun oil sends me back in time: I’m 10 years old, and my father’s guns & trophies are stored in my bedroom. The trophies are tarnished, the guns pristine. My father’s values…
Other pictures are my sisters’ favourites. They show the young soldier, the older officer. The father of his first two daughters, my sister & me. Some are of the newly married couple — my beautiful mother and my very handsome father, he grinning into the camera, she turned in animation to someone outside the viewfinder. Typical.
Other fathers — my dearly beloved father-in-law, for one — are different from my own. I was never sure — only at times — that my father really loved me. Of course he did, but as a child, I wasn’t certain. With my father-in-law, that was never in question. He was proud of me, and I knew it. Proud of my degrees, proud of my children. Proud that I was part of the family. And it was obvious in ways my own, far more verbal, father rarely conveyed.
Both were wonderful with their baby grandson — at least until senile dementia claimed my own father’s memory. Another reason I am so grateful for my FIL, who took little boys on tractor rides, and taught them guns (at the age of 4!) and bows & arrows and squirrel hunting.
So much of what my sons know of fathering they learned from Dad (my FIL), not Daddy, my own father. And from their father, my wonderful husband, for whom Dad was the ultimate rôle model.
Now, as I watch my elder son fathering my grandson, I think about how little we laud fathers, and their difficult, too-invisible contributions. How my husband took over the 4-year-old as I nursed and babied his little brother. How Dad grandfathered actively while Glen was overseas, so that our two sons never lacked for father figures. How Daddy taught us that a marriage takes two people, and that he too worked at it.
Today is a day to remember the fathers in our lives: our own, our parents’ fathers, our sons and husbands and lovers. A day to offer them recognition for all they do: not simply paying the bills (Dad! My ATM!), but helping us figure out all the minutiae of daily living. And being there through all of it.
Thanks, guys — you’re each of you completely different, and totally irreplaceable. I love you.