Sunday, June 18, 2006

What Makes A Father Makes A Son

Does daddy need a day off? In the weeks preceding Father's Day, advertising seemed to think the best way a father could spend his day was on a golf course, or somewhere else, engaged in activities that took him away from his children. Not all family dynamics are the same, but I fail to see where a father benefits from spending even less time with his children.
At the pool yesterday, a grandmother was there with her two grandsons, swimming, when she realized it was Father's Day today."We'll have to buy a present for you to give to him when you see him next week,"she offered to them. That started me to thinking, why weren't they with him this weekend? They weren't with their mother, so why not let him have them on this weekend? I know, custody rights and all, and the divorce agreement probably stipulated that he only see them every other week, or one weekend a month, but to me it seemed spiteful on the part of the mom to keep the children on the one weekend they should be with their dad, especially since she dumped them on her mom. It made me a little more thankful my ex is flexible on the times I get to spend with my kids.
But it also started me to think about my own father, and all the Hell he went through and still managed to raise five kids. My dad loved us, and enjoyed being with us as much as possible. But growing up, that was difficult, as he had to put in long hours at his job to cover medical bills incurred by my mother's bout with cancer.
At times he could be fun, I remember the games of hide and seek in the dark in the whole house we used to play. We lived in a spooky old house, with three floors and a full basement, and nights after dinner, we would turn out all the lights and play hide and seek. It was fun until everybody had been found except dad, who could be lurking anywhere in the shadows, waiting to jump out at any second.
But he also very strict, having spent time in the Marines, rising to the rank of sergeant. He had my mother's old sorority paddle that he would use on us if we misbehaved, until we hid it from him, which made it worse, as he would then resort to his belt, conveniently located around his waist. Back then, corporal punishment was still acceptable, and my father, being raised by two alcoholics, probably didn't know any different. I still cringe when I hear some WT wish they could "still beat their kids", we were paddled as a punishment, not beat out of frustration as these people seem to want to do. Even worse, though, was the yelling. Get his "Irish" up and you'd be wishing he would hit you. His eyebrows would come together, his ears would turn red, and our friends down the block would ask if that was our dad they heard yelling.
Politically, my dad was a reactionary. In the sixties, he belonged to the John Birch Society, which he joined, because he was concerned about protecting the rights of the individual, and left when they became convinced everything was a communist plot. In fact, I remember a tract he had that us kids enjoyed because it reprinted all our favorite top forty song lyrics. Who knew the Monkees were so subversive? But as we grew older, he became less reactionary and more conservative libertarian.
This was following my mother's death, and after her struggle against cancer. Often times, he would have to work all day, come home and take care of five unruly kids and a bedridden wife, and never lost his faith (although we children all did). He even switched careers before she passed, giving up his job in the insurance industry so he could spend more time at home.
I often wonder, what he would be like now? Before he passed, he was a Clinton hater. He may have listened to Rush Limbaugh, so would he be a Bush supporter? The highlight of any Father's day barbecue was the chance to argue politics with him, and we all ganged up on him, be as we were all to the left of him. But there was one thing I remember to this day that leaves me wondering.
When I was a teenager, and his anti-communist stance had settled down some (we were kicking their ass in the Cold War), I asked him, what was wrong with communism?
Well, he said, for one thing they spy on their citizens. You can't trust your neighbor, as they might turn you into the government. You can't sign a treaty with them, as they would never keep it, and break it as soon as possible. They torture people, and don't allow the people to speak out against the government. So I wonder, would my father accept this if it came draped in an American flag?
Probably. He was a Fox News watcher, after all.

1 comment:

Lily said...

Well, In an ideal situation divorced people would never be spiteful or put their own anger over what is best for kids but we all know that it rarely works that way.