By Jay Mason
“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person, he believed in me.”
– Jim Valvano
My Dad died when I was a senior in high school. He was a good man. I did not think he was very smart, certainly not as smart as I was, but I learned on the day of his funeral that he was smarter than I knew and very well respected. One person after another came up to me and said how much they respected my dad or how much he had done for them when they needed help.
I never forgot that moment when I got the opportunity to become a dad to my children.
Dads are not respected in our modern society. They are the brunt of jokes in many television programs and portrayed as almost juvenile in many commercials on television. But dads are crucial to the growth of the modern family and the proper development of children. My dad told me as he was dying of heart disease that I needed to become the man of the family and if my country called me to serve in the military, I should go. I never forgot those words as he died two weeks later and as I went to college and tried to look after my mom and my sister after he was gone. He never got to see his grandchildren, but I hope he looks down on them from heaven. I regret not treasuring the time that we had together. I still remember telling him not to come to track practice to watch me run because it was embarrassing. Don’t ever do that your dad.
So what is the nature of a dad? What do we have to offer? I was reminded by my wife that I had not experienced the pain of childbirth so I wondered early on in the raising of our children just what my role would be. The babies did not have much to do with me. I could not nurse them, and they eventually called me “dah dah,” which was encouraging, but other than the love that every father has for his child, there was no special bonding or other experience that I remember in the first year or so after birth.
Then one day my oldest son Patrick, 3, fell out of a tree. Normally he would immediately call for his mother, but that day when he was bleeding from his forehead and thought he was dying, he cried, “Dad, Dad, I am going to die.” I was shocked that he reached out to me and I comforted him. I assured him that he would not die and that he would survive to climb his tree house again. After that time the communication lines were opened and he sought my advice and counsel on the important things in his life. He still does today, most of the time. Fathers can bring a sense of strength and stability to a family.
I thought I had boys figured out and my relationship with my sons, when the girls came along. Now that was a whole different story. These girls were communicating almost from day one. Little did I know that it was going to become a captivation that has continued into adulthood. God does an amazing thing to parents of large families. Instead of giving your good and bad attributes to one child, he spreads them over all your children, and sometimes you don’t recognize them at first. God creates a puzzle that mom and dad piece together the rest of their lives.
It has been said that the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. When children witness that love, they are better able to love others, even their siblings. That has certainly been true in our family.
But I return to those daughters. Of course, they were all beautiful and they learned early on how to manipulate good old Dad. One of the best moves was to go to their mother and present their dilemma in a way that Mom would say, “Go speak to your father.” Of course, they would and if I disagreed with their proposal, they would enlist their mother in their defense. This is a losing proposition for a dad. Mom, who had taken no interest in the question in the beginning, now leapt to the defense of her daughters, and it became very difficult if not impossible to hold my ground.
When my sons had graduated from high school and went to college, I was left with my lovely wife and three daughters. Even the dogs and cat were women. At any given time, one woman or another was mad at me for something. I did my best to survive and maintained a sense of humor, without which I would have surely perished. With the grace of God my wife and I survived, and now it is a joy to watch mature young women begin their lives as adults.
As I said, the modern world doesn’t think much of dads. Many families do not have a positive male presence in the home, and unfortunately, many dads are missing in action in the raising of their children. That is not good for our society. So this Father’s Day, if you have a dad, grandfather, favorite uncle, or even older brother who helped you along the way, give them a big hug and say, “Thanks for being there.” We are an endangered species ,but we love our spouses and children every day and give thanks to God for the great gifts of love and respect that they have given to us. Happy Father’s Day!