It seems to me that we approach Father’s Day in the wrong way. It is usually considered to be a time when we honor our fathers for their various contributions to our lives, but we ignore what fatherhood means. When we tell dad how much he means to us, I suggest, we’ve got it backwards. Let me explain how I see Father’s Day: To me this is a day when I should get to let kids, grandkids and even great-grandkids know what they mean to me. If I’m the father figure here, I should get to set the tone.
When my kids came into my life they accepted me into the household with open arms. With each there was a different set of rules, a different set of needs and a different set of expectations that had to be met. All siblings, but as unique and separate as any group could possibly be. Yet they all allowed me to pester, help, anger, guide, annoy, embarrass, protect and love them equally … but each on their own terms. And when the grandkids came along, one-by-one they asserted their wants and needs and unconditional love and seemed to know instinctively that whatever they did was OK with me. And now THEIR kids (the great-grand kids) are well on their way to wrapping me around those little fingers as the others had done before.
With each of these wonderful people there is a deep, personal relationship that is to be celebrated on Father’s Day. THAT’S the magic of the day. The individual, private history of love and admiration I feel for each of these people IS the real gift of Father’s Day. And no matter who is near and who is not, those relationships are the only thing on my mind on Father’s Day. Those relationships that have taught me the meaning of joy and hope and belonging are the ones that have been the basis of the concept of fatherhood to me. I actually learned how to be a father from my kids, grandkids and great-grandkids. And to all of them I say not only “Thank you for being a part of me”, but “Thank you for taking me into your lives.”
It seems odd to note that some of you have moved on to your own families, your own homes and oftentimes some great distance away, but the bond doesn’t seem to loosen between us. You are always still in my heart and remain as close as a phone or a visit. You are not lost to me even when I feared you would be, only sometimes it is still hard to let you know how you are missed and cared about. I hope you know this, and understand that it often goes unsaid because speaking the words can make it harder on all of us. Again, the nature of our relationships is the key. The love and closeness we feel can’t be broken because you have all become part of me and I of you. Please help me celebrate MY Father’s Day this year by letting me remind you of how very much I owe you all. And that applies no mater how far afield we go or for how long we’re apart.
With apologies to Jonathan Swift, I have another “Modest Proposal” to put forward for consideration: Tee kids. Unlike Mr, Swift’s tongue-in-cheek suggestion that the children of London’s poor be (uh, let’s say…) used to nourish their families’ futures, I propose that poor kids be put to use on golf courses across America performing a vital and useful service as “Tee Kids”. For a modest fee, say between a quarter and a dollar, the kid would be called on by golfers of a certain age to insert the tee into the ground and balance the ball on it so the golfer could then hit it.
Let me explain my inspiration: A week ago Dudley and I went to visit a friend in Uniontown, Ohio, who graciously took us to a local 9-hole golf course for a little much-needed practice (since neither of us had even swung a club in a year). Well, Dud and I are among the many golfers who suffer from arthritis and stiffening joints. It’s a common enough condition and one that makes bending to insert the peg (tee) in the tee box a genuine struggle. Well, when Dud tried to tee his ball for the seventh hole, it kept rolling off the tee. Each time he picked it up and replaced it the ball would again fall off and roll a little farther than it had before. Now, with his knees and back begging for mercy, Dud refused to straighten up for a second to relieve the pain and stayed bent over chasing this ball. Eventually, of course, the ball was just beyond his reach and as he tried to extend farther he simply began to fall. (I should mention here that Dud has fallen several times in recent years and has actually injured both shoulders trying the break the falls.)
Dudley is nothing if not inventive (and of course cranky and argumentative), so he instinctively rolled as he went down to avoid “jamming” his shoulders. He ended up (quite comically) on his back, trying to get rolled over to be on his stomach so he could get back up. The trouble was that once on his stomach, he couldn’t get his arthritic knees under his rather portly self to stand. He had to kind of walk his hands backwards (towards his own belt) to get his ample backside up in the air to allow his knees to get under him. But once he was on hands and knees, the arthritis prevented him from getting a foot on the ground and forward enough to push himself up. Finally, after about three minutes of maneuvering (during which I stood behind him, laughing so hard I was completely incapable of helping in any way) our host very kindly stepped-up and held his driver on the ground like a post so Dud could climb up it with his hands and eventually get upright again. “Bastard!” he shot in my direction as he yet again teed his ball and finally continued with his round.
So you can see, out of respect for Dudley and for the sake of smoothing my relationship with him, I came to the conclusion that a little help on the tee boxes would be a good thing. I’m sure there are enough of us in the “senior” ranks to provide a decent income for enterprising young kids (boy or girl) who would be willing to sit in outdoor chairs at each tee box, assisting the elder golfers and preventing the disastrous (if hugely funny!) situation above from being repeated ever again. I would, however, interject a word of caution here for any course owners considering using “tee kids” for their businesses: Don’t allow cell phones in the hands of the kids: The ring tones would distract golfers teeing off; the kids would get entranced by games and texts and would resent being called away to do their job; and they might be tempted to “stream” their favorite “song” (which at their age would involve some nonsensical rant that is spoken, not sung at all, at the top of someone’s lungs and would become nothing but unintelligible noise that distracts serious players from figuring out what they did wrong on that last shot.) Come to think of it, Maybe Mr. Swift wasn’t all that far off the mark!