Dear Dr. Laura:
Yesterday, we had my parents, one of my sisters and some of my husband's family over to celebrate Father's Day. During dinner, I thought it would be fun for each of us to share a special memory of our dear old dads - those with us and those long departed.
My dad went first - he described how his father was a tender-hearted man who struggled in life. Despite his struggles in making a living, my father cannot remember his father ever raising his voice. He married my grandmother and raised four generous, funny, gentle men who all served their country and worked hard for their families. Dad used words such as "character", "integrity", "upstanding", "gentle", and "steadfast" to describe his father.
My sister and I both boasted of my dad coming in at bedtime every night and saying prayers aloud with us. He would then kiss each of us girls goodnight (3 of us shared a room for a while) and move on to our other siblings' rooms to do the same. Dad taught me how to ride a bike and gave to me a sense of wanderlust and exploration - always wanting to learn. He came home for dinner with the family every night and mom cooked dinner. He has always told each of his daughters how beautiful we are...so important for girls to hear from the first man in their lives. Lots of wonderful memories with my dad.
As we went to the others at the table and I heard their memories, I felt sad. My husband couldn't think of anything to say except that his dad was strict. No special outings, no special treats, no tucking into bed. His father was unfaithful to his mom repeatedly and they eventually divorced when my husband was ten. My step-daughter told two silly stories about her dad, my husband. He has been in her life, but only at arm's length since she was just a small child. Her dad has not been her daddy, but more like an uncle visiting in and out of her childhood. My mother in law recalled she was lucky to go to a girls' boarding school to avoid her own father's "beatings' and beat-downs as he was a stern man. Even my own mom's recollections of her father tended to be somewhat aloof. He was very intellectual, worked a lot and was good at golf. Hmmm.
I almost regretted bringing up the topic except I was able to see the connection between my paternal grandfather's model of a good man and my father's similar excellent character. Thank God that for our family, this apple, my wonderful dad, didn't fall far from the tree!
Thanks for all you do, Dr. Laura.