Recalling An Old-fashioned Dad

Susan Page
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Wednesday - June 16, 2005
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It’s time again to celebrate fathers.

For some time now fathers have gotten criticized for things like not being more open, sensitive and understanding.

That’s courtesy of my baby boom generation, who certainly seemed to have a grudge against fathers. Though funny, characters like All in the Family’s Archie Bunker and Married With Children’s Al Bundy portrayed dads as insensitive buffoons.

In fact, back in the early ’70s and ’80s, some baby boomers were committed to making dads more like moms and vice versa. Sure I’m happy my husband cooks and washes his own laundry — something my father never did — but in the important areas, I really liked the way my dad fathered. Oh, as a teen, I complained that he didn’t understand, but more important, I always understood where he stood. He was old-fashioned and believed he had a sacred responsibility to his wife and daughters to provide for and protect them. He knew his role well, performed it naturally, and we felt secure for it.

When his country called, he joined the Marines and headed to the war in the Pacific. After he returned, I don’t think he ever missed a day of work in his life, until old age and forgetfulness made things difficult. As a lawyer in a small, West Texas ranch town where contracts were held in contempt, he made commitments with a strong handshake and a steady eye.

In his book, liar was the worst name you could call someone.

Daddy and Mother were very different. He was the strategist, she the tactician. He’d say, “Let’s go on a vacation to Yellowstone National Park.” Mother would start planning the details. They were a good team. Daddy was the rock. If he said no, it was no. However, we could sometimes work on Mother to petition him for a change of policy about curfew or spending the night with friends or not going to church just this once. She knew how to appeal to his fair nature and could work it so he’d save face.

Daddy was proud of the fact that we were an average family yet was delighted when either of his daughters did something above average. He never contrived to spend “quality” time with us so as to share his feelings, but he set an example every day that let us know how he felt.

When my husband died I was 33 years old, had two children and had moved households many times. Still my dad strongly suggested I move back home with him and Mother, so he could take care of me and the kids. How blessed I was to have a sweet father who wanted to protect me till his dying day. He never quite understood why I wouldn’t move back home.

No question Daddy was a tough man, but some nights I’d catch him, unembarrassed, crying during a sentimental TV movie like The Glen Miller Story or a patriotic show. It taught me that my own tears were appropriate.

Daddy left this world perplexed about the “new” man. Role reversals, gender options, sensitivity training and single parenting by choice were just too “weird” for him to accept.

Society belittled dads like mine for being brave, strong and protective, yet ironically these were the very men who saved the world from totalitarian ruin.

That just wasn’t good enough in the late 1960s and beyond. Being fair, honest, strong, gentlemanly, brave, loyal, patriotic, hard-working, disciplined, humble and stable wasn’t “evolved” enough. Men needed to be more like women.

Now 30 years later, men have evolved into deadbeats and child beaters, gender-confused and dads on drugs. We have young men never knowing their fathers, and fathers never knowing they had sons. Children have never had a dad to take them to a Boy Scout or Girl Scout meeting or throw a ball with them; to look at their report card and assign appropriate praise or punishment; or to explain to them why we Americans owe so much to our country.

But to those dads of today who’ve somehow emerged as fathers in the style of my dad’s generation (and I know some), good for you — and good for your family.

Have a happy old-fashioned Father’s Day.

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