"We went out past the trees on Ridge Road, I think it was almost to Buffalo!" I said, full of the excitement I'd experienced on a Sunday drive with my family. The other kids at the lunch table were half-listening. They were, after all, more interested in their baloney sandwiches.
"My Dad," I continued... only to be interrupted by the one girl who could never abide my stories.
"Which one?" she snorted, sending the question sailing through the small lunchroom so that everyone in it was now looking our way. "You have so many!"
It was a crushing question and it silenced me. I had no comeback. I didn't have 'so many'. I had two. One that I lived with and called Dad though he was my mother's second husband. And, one that I barely knew that I called Dad because... well, he was my Dad.
The crushing blow of that question twisted in my heart like barbwire. Back in the early sixties, the concept of a step-Dad and a 'real' Dad was still foreign to a lot of folks. In my intimate circle of friends, it was unheard of. It meant I stood out from the crowd, and not in a good way. The other girl sat there, staring at me, snickering.
I don't believe I ever finished that story. In the retelling, I will admit that I probably only imagined the entire lunchroom turning to stare at me. But, perception is reality, isn't it?
Today, on Father's Day, I want to thank BOTH of my Dads. I want to say, Dad's Matter. All of them.
A friend of mine on Facebook, Dave Taylor, mentioned a book review yesterday. The book, "Do Fathers Matter?" by Paul Raeburn, is a look into the science of Fatherhood: "What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We've Overlooked", it says.
I haven't read the book. But, I have read the review by Bruce Feiler several times.
Why do we even have to ask the question, Do Fathers Matter? I wonder.
The book, according to author Raeburn, as quoted in Feiler's review, is a "...clear-eyed march through the history of family studies and a helpful review of the new generation of research devoted to identifying the impact of dads. “The discovery of the father is one of the most important developments in the study of children and families,” he [Raeburn] writes."
Whew! "the discovery of the father"... that took me aback a bit. I mean, 'discovery'... why are we discovering fathers, now?
I'll have to get the book because now I'm intrigued. Before then, let me say this, Fathers matter a lot. They always have. I don't need science to tell ME that. Do you?
My step-Dad, George, was the only father I knew for many years. He loved me. He fed me, took me for donuts on bowling day (Saturday), brought me books to read, and shared his enormous talent in art, with me. Oh, if only I could draw as well as he could draw! I miss that he is not here now, to be part of my life and my kids' lives. The only one who probably remembers him is Chloe. SHE loved him to the moon; and he loved her to the stars.
My Dad, Ross, is in a veteran's home these days. The shell that is his earthly presence is not him. It's an old, shriveled up person who is a stranger to me. And I to him. But, the memory of my Dad as a strapping Marine, as a strong, funny, loving person, will never fade. The memory of summertime and picnics and family gatherings where my Dad and my uncles played horseshoes and drank beer, and ate potato salad, while we kids amused ourselves playing tag and running through the sprinklers and doing the things kids do, yes, even today, kids do those things... is still as strong as ever. That Dad is the man who lives on in my heart.
I wish I'd had the smarts to hold my Dads closer. To love them more. To appreciate them more. I wish I'd been less into ME back then and more into the world around me. I will testify to the words Dads Matter over and over, if need be. I will tell you that as an adult, I think Dads get a bad rap, too too many times. Because, they are part of the fabric of every kid's life and no matter how active or inactive they are with that kid, everything they do matters.
Feiler shares this about the book, Do Fathers Matter: "In the arena of early childhood, Raeburn looks at research on children’s language development in middle-class and poor families. There, fathers are not only important — they are more important than moms. How so? Mothers in these families typically spend more time with the children, which allows them to use words the kids already know. Since fathers are less attuned, they use broader vocabulary, which stimulates learning. The same holds true when dads put kids in unfamiliar situations, encouraging creative problem-solving."
Well, it's surely ONE way Fathers Matter. There are dozens more. I bet those of us with fathers, could tell Raeburn how Fathers matter. Without the science. I bet we kids of those ancient days of "Father Knows Best" could tell him a few stories that would help him write his next book.
Still, it's about time someone took that challenge and provided substance for my firm belief that Fathers are as vital as... food and water. Yes, folks, Fathers Matter, because they are not mothers. Kids need both but often, Dad can be that bigger than life figure you admire, love, strive to be like, and remain in awe of... all the days or your life, to a kid.
Happy Fathers Day, to my Dads. They are both bigger than life to me. I remain in awe of them. The love I have for them pulses in my heart every day, but it grows exponentially on Father's Day.
p.s. Happy Father's Day to Tom, my hubby, who helped raise two of the most amazing kids on the planet.