By Ron Cook
Father’s Day is now celebrated in June … a month after we celebrate Mother’s Day. Both holidays were informally initiated by grateful children of wonderful parents, and then made officially a part of our national calendar, later, by different presidents of the United States. Mothers are an amazing miracle in our lives. I am gathering stories about Mothers through the eyes of their children, as well as new and long-term Mothers, for another special column focus. This month, I want to look at some ideas about the overall concept of “Fatherhood.” I will write about the Fathers I am familiar with; mine, my own fathering, my son and friends.
In 1909, a child of a widowed Civil War father of six children started a movement to celebrate her father. His birthday had been on the third Friday of June. That is the day she chose to celebrate his courage and love. She started encouraging others to celebrate along with her. This went on for decades until, during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency, it was made official in the mid-1960’s. Marking an official day to celebrate anything deserves a look at what we are celebrating …
I am told that people who work in the Counterfeiting Department of the Federal Government’s Justice system are trained in a very special way. They are only shown the “real” currency. They are never shown a false coin or bill. The theory is that by thoroughly studying the real thing, they will instantly recognize the fake! When I taught Character Education in the public schools, we never gave examples of poor character. Only the good traits of character were modeled. And so, let us look at the Fatherhood qualities that have nurtured and been the best of what Fathering is meant to be.
Every man, and many women, have done “fathering.” Every time we embrace a child, support a dream, or show a kindness to a child … we are fathering. I have a brother who has led an amazing life of many years in the priesthood, that might never have been, if it wasn’t for the heroic acts of a couple when he was just a very young child. While playing, he became stuck against a wall in our backyard by a door against his throat. My other brother and I could not release him from this precarious position. He passed out and started to turn a bluish-green! It was tragic! A couple of friends, Dick and Judy Simon, were stopping by for a visit. They recognized what had to be done … got him out … gave him CPR … and took him to the doctor! They saved his life! He now has served twenty-nine years as a priest, Fathering others with his love and the sacraments! This might never have been, save for the quick correct actions of two Everyday Heroes!
In the Greek, “Heaven” means the air around us. Fathers and Mothers provide this space for us to grow and become. Fathers play that special role of support for the Mother, financial, as well as loving, that helps the child to become all that they can become in this life. I have known Fathers that have become both the Mother, as well as the Father, for their children, (Ray comes to mind) because that is what they had to do. They, then, chose to do that job! I grew up in a community where it was not uncommon for a family to have ten, twelve, and even seventeen children in the household! Yet, each child was loved, supported, and prospered in life! My Father was a silent rock of love. My son is a wonderful teacher of all that is manhood for his two boys. My daughters have, at times, been both Mother and Father to their children. We often think of Mothers as the “love-source” for the child. We also think of Fathers as the “strength-source.” Yet these are roles that can be shared by both parents as well as aunts, uncles, friends, and others in a child’s life. We are all either loved or need love … strong or need strength. I think it is no accident that we often think of God as the Father. Yet there is love in that concept, as well as strength.
Each day each of us has an opportunity to Father someone. “Becoming” in this world requires both love, as well as strength. Perhaps we can look around us today and see where we are called to Father … or be Fathered. Thank you for reading…