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The Sacrifices of Fathers

Updated on March 27, 2013

What Makes a Good Dad?

When it comes to parenthood, let’s face it: dads get a bad rap. After all, they aren’t the ones who go through the physical and emotional changes a woman does during pregnancy. It isn’t their bodies that are stretched out of proportion, sometimes never to return to that pre-pregnancy figure. They aren’t at risk for incurring diabetes, hypertension, or the myriad of other medical complications that can occur during the gestation period. Nor are their emotions affected by their hormones, like a seesaw on a crowded playground. Undoubtedly, mothers earn the right to wave the sacrifice banner. So, what makes a dad more than mediocre and, as in the Western movies of long ago, ‘one of the good guys’?

I’ve pondered this question, as Father’s Day approaches, knowing that I have been fortunate to know some of the ‘good guys’ along the way, my own father included. What makes a dad stand out from the crowd is exactly what makes a mom a ‘cut above’ the rest- the sacrifices he makes for his family.

I don’t mean the ‘everyday-going-to-work’ sacrifice that most dads engage in. All things being equal, it is expected that an adult male will provide for his family. No stereotyping here, for I do believe in equal opportunity. I know several men who are stay-at-home dads, and it works well for their households. What I am referring to are the unexpected acts of forfeit that bring more cohesiveness to the family unit.

Positive Role Models Wanted: Dead or Alive!

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One Man Can Make a Difference

Immoral, destructive role models abound in our world. Pick up any newspaper, or storyline on television and radio, and you will hear yet one more report of the narcissistic personalities that have run amuck in our society. They spill their sick sewage across everything they touch, contaminating others directly or indirectly. When these toxic individuals are the leaders of our political communities, churches and even our families, there are grave repercussions. Where does a child-the next generation, turn to for an example of a positive role model?

Some people never know who they are or what they want from life. They meander along, without a compass, without a sense of being grounded. This is a mistake for dads if they expect a different outcome from their offspring. Children really do incorporate what they observe. The role model that a father presents will be the action that their children will repeat.

One of my earliest examples of what it means to stay true to goals was my father’s belief in education. Knowing at a very young age that he wanted a vocational trade, and pursuing his dream, despite the pressures of his father, he was a maverick in his family. My grandfather, the proprietor of a Detroit diesel service station, expected my father to drop out of high school to help in the shop. When my father refused to do so, my grandfather was disappointed with him for a long time. Certainly, he helped pump gas and assisted his dad during the year before his apprenticeship began but, his heart was not in it and he knew this. He stood by his conviction that the easy choice of following the family business was not necessarily the right one for him. Not for the truth of who he was. He sacrificed the approval of his father for the start of his own independence. In that, he built character, which was later displayed to his children throughout our lives.

In the years that followed he carved a niche for himself as an excellent craftsman; a journeyman who worked for over 25 years in the trade before another calling, that of teacher, presented itself. I recall the impression it made on me, as a young teen, knowing that my dad had started college at an age when most people were enjoying the comfort of their careers. And, though only sixteen, I recognized that this man, whom I had assumed I knew, was far more complex than what I was aware of. I was witnessing the evolution of a man.

Let the World be your Classroom

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The Value of Education

Higher education was expected in our family, based on the path that my father set before us. Even greater were the deeper messages: to stay open to the flow of life; to not restrict yourself to the preconditions of stereotypical age requirements set by others; to always maintain a curiosity for what is beyond the horizon.


Think Big

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A Thirst for Adventure

It was this very curiosity of his, which prompted this otherwise frugal man, to give up some money in exchange for a subscription to the renowned National Geographic Magazine . Memories of brightly colored photographs displaying people in far off lands, exotic animals, and excursions under the sea, come to my mind. An avid reader, Dad brought his new found information to family dinner discussions on a regular basis. In the height of his enthusiasm he began his campaign to move to Australia.

I was fourteen and the third of his six children. We were decidedly divided in our vote as to whether we should pack up and explore this far away land, or stay firmly rooted in Detroit. It gave for a lively forum with many a night of pondering what life would be like ‘down under’.

This relatively unexplored territory was the ‘new America’, Dad said, as he persistently attempted to convince my mother that it was the right move to make. His heart was there, as he sat in his evening chair turning the pages of any book he could find on the subject, but in the end, mom’s vote won out. As the head of the household, he could have taken any number of directions regarding what he wanted. An immature, more selfish man might have packed everyone up and headed off…or even abandoned his family for a solo trip. But, the sacrifice of dad’s Australian adventure is an example of doing what is best for the group-not for the individual.

Maintaining a Joyful Spirit

In our household of nine, Dad’s paycheck was stretched very thin. The joke of having a ‘champagne taste on a beer budget’ was coined for my parents. When finances are precarious, daily sacrifices are made in the general running of the home. What our parents could not do financially for us, they made up for in other ways.

Dad loved kids. We knew that and the neighbors surrounding our home knew it. Ours was the house that they sent their own kids to play at because my dad didn’t care about the image of a pristine lawn, or clean sidewalks. We played hopscotch, football, baseball and mumblety-peg, without the fear that we would be told to “keep-off-the-grass”.

Ours was the backyard with the kids, the animals and the multitudes of trees to climb. And in the winter, when the Midwestern temperatures dropped below freezing, and the snow piled in drifts along fences and houses, Dad would meticulously stomp and hose it. While we kids were tucked warmly in bed, he would work diligently past midnight, to give us something we cherished,-a skating rink of our own.

That is sacrifice.


Dad with Grandkids and Great Grandkids

Shared Time Off

Dad had one week off from work each year. He spent it taking six unruly kids, solo, into the Northern woodlands for a seven day camping trip. It was an annual event. He allowed my mother an unencumbered hiatus from us. As she recharged her batteries, he maneuvered fish hooks out of scalps, removed leeches from barefoot waders, started some fires and put out others, all the while teaching us to respect and appreciate nature.

That is sacrifice.

A new addition to the family: Papa and J, 1993

Sticking it out to the end...

Positive attitude goes a long way in life. Many a night we could hear our parents argue and, undoubtedly Dad had a temper. But, he maintained a joyful spirit through the hardships and the pain, the tumultuous teen years of his children, the death of one son, the relocation to another state, and the life as a grandparent adopting and raising his grandson at age 64.

That is sacrifice.

The White Hat

As the old Western ends, the cowboy in the white hat rides off into the sunset. That cowboy is the dad who stands up for his family in ways too numerous to count. He is the one who knows who he is and where he is going…the one who has the character and will to do right by his children, creating strong morals through the examples he models. He’s one of the good guys.


Life is but a Dream...

 

A favorite photo, which exemplifies his attitude about life:

Dad floating down the ‘Lazy River’, age: 77. 

 

  Happy Father’s Day to all of the good guys!

 

 

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