The dictionary offers several definitions of the word father. The continuous care of a child seems the most practical. Fatherhood, in the truest sense of the word, never stops.
I enjoyed the role of father to two wonderful daughters. But several friends insist that a man doesnt experience the true complexity of fatherhood without raising sons.
Because my father was 64 when I was born, the typical father-son relationship was practically nonexistent. Although he interacted with his older sons, he generally ignored me. As he grew older and more infirm, he regarded me as competition for my mothers attention.
Thats not to say he wasnt a kind, generous man. He was never abusive and was well-respected. But I spent some lonely years yearning for a hands-on Dad and was constantly on the prowl for a substitute father figure.
Its my observation that the first stage of the father-son relationship is total adoration of the father by the son. Its so intense that it reminds me of the anecdote in which a little boy, trying out his toy telescope, says, Mama, I think I see God, and he looks a lot like Daddy.
Then come the teen years, smooth sailing for some Dads, stormy seas for others. The latter is especially true in todays Age of Independence for teenagers. I cite a case in point.
One of the most poignant, if not eloquent, father-son testimonials was delivered by my great-nephew, Tim Dockery, at the recent funeral of his father, Phillip Dockery, in the Surry County foothills.
A common stumbling block in the relationship between a man and a son soon to become a man is discipline. Tim touched on this.
Discipline is needed in a house with four boys, he noted. Dads discipline was always appropriate, never abusive. Was he firm? Yes. Could he get angry? Yes. Was there a Democracy in our house? No. Daddy ruled.
I remember one particular occasion when I was around 16 where I so wanted to let Daddy have it. I dont remember why, but he and I were in the middle of a very heated exchange.
He was getting ready to go work, sitting on a stool at the entrance of the house, putting on his boots. He looked up at me with a statement and a question: I know you want to hit me, dont you?
I had a perfect shot at him hes sitting and Im standing. Yes, sir, I said quickly and angrily.
He then made another statement, followed by a question. But youre not going to hit me, are you?
Somewhere deep inside me I wonder, even today, if he didnt want me to take a shot. Regardless, I said, No, sir.
After a few seconds, he said, Its hormones, Tim. When I was your age, I wanted to hit my daddy a few times, too. Itll pass. Let me tell you something, though. I know youre mad, and I know we disagree. But Im your father; Im not your friend.
Youve got a lot of friends, and while I think this episode will pass, and we ultimately will be friendly again, you dont need another friend. You need a father.
Youve got to honor me and your mother. If you dont honor us, you wont honor your teachers, your boss or anyone in authority.
Simply stated, Daddy controlled our will without breaking our spirits. Were we fearful of him? Yes in a good way.
The Bible repeatedly says Fear God. This word fear means reverential trust. I would say Daddy disciplined us in a way that resulted in reverential trust.
Tim is right on target. As you fathers know, fathering children from the nursery to adulthood and beyond is a rare but challenging privilege that provides the opportunity to serve as a lighthouse in the life of another human being.
And some day, when the job is done, you may proudly say as Michael Jordans father once said when his son reached still another pinnacle of athletic prowess, This is something I raised.
Happy Fathers Day.
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