by Ted Brown
Over 111 years ago, fathers did what fathers do today.
Fret about their family; wife, and kids
Brood about their finances.
Lose sleep over the events of the world.
Etcetera, etcetera, now and forever…
There is not much difference in fatherhood between then and now. Yes, I sit here in a home that was trucked onto a spot of fallow reclaimed land, using some kind of hybrid compressed typewriter-like device the size of a plain piece of paper to spawn words into a theory of binary energy flowing through the air to a random set of machines lost in a warehouse somewhere in the world while some artificial intelligence is telling me how to correct and adjust my language in order to be word-perfect, drinking coffee from a faraway place around a table of pseudo-wood on an indisposable eternal chair. Unlike my century-old compatriot in his self-built house, table, and chair, reading a newspaper scribbling on a paper with ink and pen, wondering if the weather will hold while he gets his family safely to the church in the Ford.
But yes, not much is different…
The question has been asked for millennia by him and me: “What is it to be a father?” “How do I navigate the world today in order to provide for my family?” “Why is it so hard to make sure everything is working right?” “Will I provide for my kids to have what they need?”
“What do I do?”
It’s that last one that gets me. I stare at this screen, much like the dreaded essay papers of yesteryear, not knowing what to say. Profound thoughts of grand wisdom coursing through the synapses in my brain yet somehow being annihilated by rabbits in the form of unemptied trash cans and dirty clothes and my job and the relationship between me and my children, all while being distracted by my indescribably attractive wife scurrying around the kitchen.
They don’t come out. The words of wisdom that is. At least not the way I want them to. I type, delete, type again, delete again. I struggle with the idea that fatherhood is some noble cause that must be acknowledged by the masses. Wisdom wrote down sounding like some cheesy commercial valentine card. Delete. Rabbits again…
In reality, though, fathers need to be celebrated. The quiet pursuance of fatherhood is a hard thing. It takes a special breed of male to be a father. I realize now that I need to qualify the word “father”. Any Homosapien male can procreate to become a father. Typically, it takes about 5 minutes and a willing female, ideally. The word “father” that I am referring to is the result of years of conscious and willful ways of being that develop the long term fulfillment of life in others. Generation after generation of accumulated wisdom transferred from a father to son creating a life worth being lived. That is the “father” I am talking about.
If (and it is a big IF) I could boil down what I have gleaned from the generations of fathers in my ancestral line, I think it could be contained in two intangibles: Integrity and Responsibility.
These two ideas seem to be both ubiquitous across human existence and specific to each and every hour of life’s drudgery.
Integrity, not the moralistic function of the word, comes from the idea that a “man is only as good as his word”. At the very onset of fatherhood, I gave my word to provide and protect, in sickness and health, until the end of my days. Taking responsibility for this family, regardless of circumstance and in spite of all things, is of primary importance. A father’s role is to be the highly flexible yet sturdy pillar, intertwined and synchronous with his mate, in the responsibility of and for his family. Integrity the key and responsibility is the lock to open the door to fulfillment in life. Without this, nothing is workable in the family.
That’s it, boiled down to the essence.
There is no easy way to say it. Not enough sugar in the world to make that medicine go down. I struggle acutely with this every day. It is a thing that must be done, yet can never be done consistently and completely finished.
Yet, it is my joy and honor to try. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to engage in these things; the worthy aspects of this endeavor. I love the trying of if. I love the adventure of it…
It is my hope that, as I celebrate this 110th Father’s Day, you enjoy the pride of integrity and the journey of responsibility.