Manvotional: The Debt We Owe to Fathers
Today is Father's Day, and as it happens, I have a lot of time available, doing nothing other than to contemplate its meaning. I am at home; my left lower leg in a cast-like boot, having torn a tendon in my ankle; my right wrist in a brace due to a chronic carpal tunnel syndrome that popped up a few months ago; the meniscus in my right knee in need of an orthopedist's care; and still recovering from almost a month now of a respiratory infection. Old age is not for the faint of heart. I expect all of this to either get better on its own, or be made better by a qualified physician, so it is not my permanent state; but it seems to take longer these days to bounce back from things, and even relatively minor ailments when taken in the aggregate seem to be particularly debilitating. [Cough! Whimper.]
In any case, there is no Father's Day celebration for me this year. My wife of nearly 30 years is quite sick right now.....nothing serious, just a really nasty cold that settled upon her a couple of days ago. There's lots of mucus involved. It's kind of alarming. She's almost never sick —having what I would almost describe as a "sturdy peasant's constitution", and is always in such rude good health as to be envied — so the special dinner we had planned, with the visit of our son and his family, has been called off (she says "postponed"). She was going to be serving one of my all-time favorites, a signature dish of hers, home-made chile rellenos stuffed with boudain sausage, boracho beans and dirty rice, but she is just too sick and tired to finish the job, and I want her to rest and get better quickly. I hate to see her suffer like that - especially when it means no boudain stuffed chile rellenos for me. The already-roasted poblano chiles sit forlornly in the spare refrigerator in my mancave, waiting for better days. Let us all pray that those days heave into view soon.
In the meantime, I am left with time to spend on contemplating the meaning of this day. I don't particularly care that Mothers' and Fathers' Days were established to sell more cards, candies, and cigars ......although cigars need no justification. In a culture in which the traditional nuclear family — with its one mother, one father, however many children, and its traditional cultural values — is increasingly under assault, one way to hold onto those things, and to pass those values down to the next generations, is to spend a day in which we collectively reverence the roles that our mothers and fathers played in our own lives. So many of the ills of society can be traced to the lack of strong parental rolls in people's lives, and yet the current culture and the political landscape increasingly doubles down by empowering the forces which are poisonous to those traditional values. Collectively, we are the agents of our own destruction. In such times, it is fitting to take a good look at what matters......what really matters....and then to commit ourselves to preserving those things. It is more precious than wealth or any other gift which we can hand down to our children and grandchildren. And now that I am a grandfather myself, I feel more strongly than ever the call to be that man in somebody's life. I have a son of whom I am justifiably proud, who is doing all the right things, and now I have been entrusted with participating in the care and raising of my two precious grandchildren, and I long to take my grandson fishing.
So when I read the following article on the Art of Manliness blog, I was motivated to post here about it and to give a recommendation to read it. It is very much worth giving it your attention:
“The Debt We Owe to Fathers”
From The Job of Being a Dad, 1923
By Frank H. Cheley
Most boys never do really appreciate their Dads until they are gone – often in fact until they have boys of their own to perplex them and to harass them and to cause them to look backward through the years to boyhood again and it is then that all that Dad meant in their growing lives dawns upon them and they yearn for some way in which to fling back the past and tell the Dad that is no more just what they really think of him now.
Do yourself a favor and read the entire thing, especially if you are possessed of a "Y" chromosome. But here's the thing...... the only debt we owe our fathers are the intangible debts of memory and honor. Whatever I did for my son, whatever role I played in his life, I did purely out of love, with no strings attached, and no expectation of anything in return except a fervent prayer that he would turn out alright have have a great life. I would do it all again, with all the sacrifice of self, to give him the best life I could. The reward for me was in the doing/giving, not in whatever accolades may come my way down the pike......because THAT is what fathers do. I had a complicated relationship with my own father, and some of the fallout from that relationship continued to haunt my life long after his death, but I never stopped loving him, and honoring him. Whether consciously or not, he provided me with a guide, for both what to do, and what NOT to do, when it came to raising my own son. I bless his memory for that.
Here's to you, dad.