Where have all the good men gone
And where are all the gods?
Where’s the street-wise Hercules
To fight the rising odds?
Isn’t there a white knight upon a fiery steed?
Some people say that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day were created by greeting card companies. That never worked with me, anyway. I’m terrible at the whole greeting card thing. In the age of social media, it seems like those holidays (as well as the slew of other days, like sibling day) have become day-long tributes to our “best parent ever,” living or dead, or even to the parent that we never had.
You know, I’m kind of okay with that, especially on Father’s Day.
No matter how civilized we think we are, a great dad is a protector and a provider. I read an article this morning about a new dad (one that I have known since he was in high school) and was delighted by the things he said.
“Everything feels different. The other day, we had Lucy, and we were walking our dogs, and one of the neighbor’s dogs got loose, and all of a sudden I just wanted to jump in front of Lucy. It wasn’t even a thought. It was that protective, father instinct.”
I have lots of stories about my dad. One of our favorite things to do, especially on Saturday nights, was “play fight.” We would all get down on the floor in the deep shag carpet, and Dad would get on all fours and chase us around. I don’t know why we even use the word “chase,” because we wanted more than anything to be caught. He would wrestle with us, tickle us, and when he got tired he would end the wrestling by holding us up in the air on his feet in turn. It was the best thing ever.
Dad had a Superman moment that we still talk about. When I was a toddler, we were visiting some friends. For whatever reason, we had gone to their house in dad’s pickup truck. (In that era, seat belts were mostly just stuffed between the seat cushions and ignored, so an entire family of four could squeeze in if the situation called for it.) My parents had expressed an intention to go home by putting me and my brother in the truck. As was often the case, it was taking a while to get Mom and Dad to actually stop talking and leave, so, like a good child, I used this unstructured time as part of my educational development while my parents carried on with their business. I thought it seemed like a good idea to finally figure out what that BIG lever behind the steering wheel was for. I knew it was tougher to push than the blinker stick (even though I know people who, to this day, still don’t know how to use that one) and that–bonus–it made the little orange line above the steering wheel move to different letters. I was too young to know what P N D R L1 L2 spelled, so maybe if I moved that big arm, I could figure it out.
The truck was at the peak of the driveway–a steep driveway on a lake lot, in fact. My parents, their friends, and their adopted toddler were standing at the bottom of the driveway.
I figured out that N meant “this was a really bad idea.” I wasn’t so much alarmed by the fact that the truck was moving–I was finally driving!–as I was amazed by how fast Dad ran up that hill, got the door open, and put my first driving lesson to an end. I’m pretty sure I ruined Mom’s entire day.
We can laugh about it now (ha!) but the funny thing about that story is that when Mom tells it I don’t even think she got mad at me. She was dazzled by the hero who saved her, her babies, and her friends.
The lyrics I quoted are from a show I’m doing right now. Yes, I realize that musical theatre is about as deep as a spoon, but one of the central themes of “Footloose” is daddy issues. The main male character has been abandoned by his father, and the adult males in the community where he lives are all overbearing and without compassion. The alpha male of the community is not an outright bully, nor is he overtly power-hungry. He’s of a much worse ilk. He “protects” his family and community not by fighting evil but by eliminating the possibility of it.
That’s not what fathers are supposed to do. That’s not what heroes are supposed to do.
Fathers will put us in the truck. Fathers will throw us up in the air. Fathers will take us for walks in the neighborhoods where there are dogs. (When you’re a grown up, a really good Dad will help you pull nasty insulation out of your well house when you just can’t handle the thought of encountering a dead rodent. True story.) Fathers don’t take the bad things in the world away from us; they let us know that they are bigger and stronger than the bad things and that we don’t have to be afraid when they are around.
Thank you for being one of the great ones, Dad. I love you so very much.