Dads about Dads
By GLYNIS VALENTI Times Leader Staff Writer
Father’s Day is a relatively new holiday, signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1972. It’s one of the top four holidays for the greeting card industry, with 95 million cards sold in 2010. The necktie industry has also benefited, and, cliché as it may be, ties were still the most common Father’s Day gifts in recent years.
What do fathers really want for Father’s Day? More importantly, what do they want for their children? What have they learned from their own fathers? This writer interviewed four dads who confirm that fatherhood is more than biology.
How have your parents influenced you?
David B. (father of 3:) I think my parents have a strong sense of right and wrong, and they didn't compromise. I guess that makes them "strict," but I prefer to think of it as holding firm to convictions. I see that in me.
Larry M. (father of 4, grandfather of 5:) I was blessed with unbelievable parents. My mother was always in my corner, whether I was right or I was wrong. She always fought for me. Dad always took time out of his busy schedule to talk to me and guide me. I worked the farm with him, so farming gave me the opportunity to spend more time with him than other people might have with their fathers. He also knew when to hold back. He allowed you to make mistakes without letting you get hurt.
Kelly M. (father of 3 plus 3 step-children from a second marriage, grandfather of 2:) My parents divorced when I was 2 years old. My dad did what he could—coached my little league teams, showed up to my games. There was a big age difference, and my older brother and sister were pretty much out of the house by the time I was 6. My mother raised us until that point by herself. Even so, my family was always close, getting together for all the holidays and birthdays. We’ve always been a strong family unit.
Ken S. (father of 2, grandfather of 4:) I had excellent, excellent parents. My mother taught us to respect everyone, and she taught me how to be a gentleman. My father always said to trust everyone until they give you a reason not to trust them. He always gave good advice. He died at age 39 when I was a senior in high school. That’s something that I regret, that I miss—not knowing my father or having him here while I’ve been an adult.
What are a father’s responsibilities?
David B.: A father shows his children with his example how they should live, not just by telling them what they should do and how they should behave. He instills a sense of worth and positive self-esteem. He teaches his sons how to treat women and teaches his daughters how they can expect to be treated by men. If he does a terrible job, then another generation learns bad behavior, but if he does a good job, the world is a better place.
Larry M: Protecting them, providing a stable place for your children to develop and hope that they become sustaining citizens.
Kelly M: To raise his kids to be productive adults and to keep them safe. At one point, though, you have no control, and you have to let them go on to live their own lives.
Ken S.: The welfare of the children, including provision, safety and faith. Faith is as important as anything else. You have to feed them spiritually, too.
Do you have a favorite memory of your own father?
David B.: As I have gotten older, I really value the way my father has become more of a counselor and advisor to me. I value his input and opinion on life decisions.
Larry M.: His sayings that I quote all the time, his guidance as I went into public life. I knew he was always there for me. When Dad passed away, my son gave the eulogy and said, “Older people claim to be able to talk to young people. Grandpa listened.”
Kelly M.: He was never afraid to take chances on anything, and if he wasn’t happy, he would just…go. He would say, “Why stay and be miserable?” I think there’s a part of everyone who wants to do that, live like that. He was all about being happy.
Ken S.: I was 6 years old. He and I were driving down a road in his black and chrome Ford Fairlane 500. He pointed at the rearview mirror and said to me, “This mirror is here because sometimes you have to look at where you’ve been to see where you’re going.” I never forgot that.
Do you have a most memorable Father’s Day?
David B.: Probably my most memorable Father's Day was my first one. Nothing too special happened that day--we had a picnic at a park, I think. But I was very excited to be able to celebrate.
Larry M.: It was my daughter’s two children giving me that picture [a painting of Larry’s father on a tractor.] Dad was sick at the time; it was just before he died. They saw tears in my eyes and thought I didn’t like it, but that wasn’t it at all. There was a moment of “the handing over of the reins,” so to speak. I realized I was going to be the new patriarch of the family.
Kelly M.: A few years ago my son came into town [from Kentucky] for that weekend, and we spent the day at my dad’s house. It was one of those times I wished would never end.
Ken S.: We went to Tappan Lake for a picnic and spent all day there. All of us got sunburned.
What do fathers want for their own children?
David B.: I think most fathers want the standard happy and healthy for their kids. Also, I think most fathers hope that their kids turn out better than they did and don't make the same mistakes they did.
Larry M.: Every night I used to whisper a little prayer in my kids’ ears, “May God bless you and keep you happy, healthy and strong.” If they can grow up that way and remain that way, then a father’s work is done.
Kelly M.: When you’re divorced your hands are tied in a lot of areas. You miss out on so many things. I want them to be happy and healthy. I hope they are.
Ken S.: To be happy, healthy, safe, to do better than we did. Ditto for the grandchildren, by the way. I thought it would be cool to have grandchildren, but you don’t know until you have them. It’s much cooler than I imagined.
So, what do fathers really want for Father’s Day?
David B.: A little bit of peace and quiet!
Larry M.: I always told them don’t buy gifts because if I want it and can afford it, I probably already have it. If I don’t have it, it’s because I can’t afford it, and I know you can’t afford it either. I think a hug and an “I love you” is probably the best thing. The sharing of that is really special.
Kelly M.: I never want presents. I guess I really just want a phone call to let me know they’re okay.
Ken S.: A card is good. They usually get me a lot more. Don’t tell them, but I’d be fine with the card.