Found myself pondering “Father’s Day” this past week. Yes, I know I’m a week late writing about it. I’m one of those folks, however, who spends time pondering what it means to be a “father” and the difference between a “father” and a “Dad.” Fatherhood carries with it an awesome responsibility to provide guidance to the children one helps to create by setting a good example and always being there.
My wife and I are blessed with four wonderful children all of whom have found their place in the world, all are college graduates, healthy and happy, and in the case of the three oldest, are mature women dedicated to helping others. Their brother, our youngest, is a Vandal and a Major in the US Marine Corps.
We’re proud of all. They all called and wished the old man a good day. Two of them took “Dad” to see a double header Northwest League baseball game between Spokane and Boise. Not only do they all love baseball, like their Dad, all also know how to keep a scorebook.
I’m fortunate I still have a great relationship with all for sadly too many fathers and children become alienated. I readily concede though that the credit goes to my spouse. We also luckily figured out things we could do as family such as enjoying Idaho’s wilderness by backpacking and going on rafting trips.
In the beginning the two older girls called me by my nickname, but it came to a screeching halt one day when overheard by a colleague, Mike McGavick. He jumped all over them that I was to be called Dad, that a father is not just another name, that Dad conveys a special relationship and is to be respected and cherished.
I thought once again about that incident upon reading a note from Mike that his father, Joe, had passed away a few days earlier. Like many father and sons, they at times had a contentious relationship. Both loved politics and both made their mark in the business world. Both were strong personalities and could clash easily. At the end of the day, however, one knew a deep and abiding love was present also.
There are a variety of phrases that use the word father. For example, Mike honored me by asking that I be the godfather of his first born, Jack (and my wife to be the godmother).
Most men never consider taking a parenting class, but despite what one may think, it doesn’t just come naturally, and all men and women could make use of parenting classes. All too often the father figure does not realize the degree to which the son tries to imitate the father. One of the great songs in the 60’s was “Cat’s in the cradle” by Harry Chapin. It is all about how a Dad does not have time to spend with his son. Then when the son is an adult and the Dad is retired the son doesn’t have time to spend with the Dad.
I can say that while my Dad tried to a limited extent to be a good father to my brother, my sister and me, he failed. He had lost his own father when he was three. His mother, trying to live as a waitress in Chicago during the Depression, couldn’t take care of him and so gave him away to a relative in far away Burke, Idaho.
That experience coupled with ten battles in the Pacific created mental issues and along with bad migraines, led to his committing suicide when I was 14. It was more by the Grace of God and my wife’s skill that I managed to be a tolerably decent Dad.
I was blessed to have two other types of “fathers” to whom I owe a deep debt of gratitude for their patience and guidance. One father is a priest, Father Steve Dublinski, who I worked with when he was the Vicar General for Bishop William Skylstad in the diocese of Spokane. I introduced Father Steve to fly fishing and in three weeks he was better than I. He has become a superb fly fisherman. I have benefitted, however, in that for ten years now, on an average of three times a month, we go fly fishing on his day off up the St. Joe or the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene. We’ve also fished other streams in Idaho and Montana. The scenery is always great as is the company.
Then there are those rare individuals who truly become “surrogate fathers” for fatherless folk like me. Over the years I worked for Idaho Governor and Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus our relationship evolved into a father/son relationship. He tutored and taught me much. Those times I have stumbled almost all have the common denominator of my failure to pick up the phone and seek his counsel.
Andrus is a natural teacher and father. He dotes on his three daughters, but he also keeps an eye out on his surrogate sons - I am just one of three or four other sons he keeps track of.
I end this “Father’s Day Salute” to Father Dublinski, to Dad Andrus, and to Mike McGavick with a belated “best wishes” to you all and thanks for your kind and compassionate interest in this wondering waif. And a happy 58th birthday to Father Steve on June 26th and a happy observance of his 33rd anniversary of his ordination on June 29th. I am so blessed by you all. Thanks so much.