It feels kind of late to be writing a column about Father’s Day, but I am. I think sometimes fathers are shortchanged, or they were in my generation. Not so much today. Growing up was hard; we were poor, but my dad always had a way of making it better. He could be tough, sometimes I plain didn’t like him, but most of the time I adored him. It’s complicated. He was always kind of like my champion and he would always try to make me feel better when I felt misunderstood.

I was his oldest so I guess I saw a different side to him than some of my siblings. We all loved him but he certainly was different to each of us. When I married Don I knew what kind of father he would be and he didn’t prove me wrong. He was active, engaged and present. His kids were his world, and he is the same kind of grandfather. We raised a boy who became the same kind of father; he dotes on his daughter and is so active with her. We were blessed when our daughter married a man who is a strong family man and present for his children.

As we went to the lake as a family Sunday it was full of fathers doing the same thing our three dads were, celebrating their day with their families. It made me miss my dad terribly. Normally I would have gone to see him at National Cemetery, but that was delayed because we were all on the lake until late.

While relaxing alone on the boat (I am terrified of deep water) I thought about all the dads I know and what really made them special as dads. I thought about the young dad who brings his two sons to Geraldine’s on the weekend and how, as a single parent, he is so present with them. I watched them recently with delight as they came bicycling down Maple Street learning to ride with no training wheels. They were brave and he was chasing diligently down the road keeping them safe. I thought of the young man across the street and the devotion he shows to his family, and Chris and his kids who will soon be our neighbors, or Ben and his tribe and how active they are, and Nick and his children as he builds their home place behind his father’s place.

We are blessed as a community to have dads so engaged in their children’s lives. Just on this little end of Maple Street I get to witness it daily and it is a joy.

I remember how hard my dad worked; there was little time left at the end of the day, but we always watched the evening news together and a little TV until bedtime. I marvel at how much time today’s dads are determined to give to their children and I love that about them. My husband was that kind of dad, home with his family at night and on the weekends. It didn’t matter what we did professionally we often took the kids right along with us.

I thought about A (a special friend who lost her dad this year) and remembered the eulogy she gave for him. I cried a little for her as I know she misses him greatly. Then I thought of Brad, Andrew and Dr. Dazzle and about how the three of them (some of the busiest men I know) are constantly with their children and dedicated to them. I thought of all those dads from blended families who were dads to two families, many of them as dedicated to one as the other, working tirelessly to support both families. Of the police officers, EMTs and hospital personnel who didn’t get to go boating on Father’s Day because they were busy taking care of us, I hope they got their Dad’s Day another day.

The kind of pressure a dad must feel today is mindboggling to me. The cost of college, the dangers in the world, the sickness, and the cost of just everyday living has got to be exhausting and full of pressure for today’s dads. It was for mine and we didn’t have COVID, we didn’t have mass shootings, we didn’t have angry people shouting at each other, drunk driving was an anomaly, and kids weren’t dying daily from overdoses.

I think being a dad is harder today than ever, so hats off to all of you who have stepped up to the plate and are batting us home. I marvel at dads like Uncle Junie, Ron, Joe, Steve, Uncle Jim, and the strong influences they were in making some pretty good dads a reality as their sons grew to be fathers. I guess it isn’t rocket science, it is consistency, kindness, strength and love.

I got a gift of sorts from my dad on Monday. While I was working out in the pool at the Y we were all talking about our Father’s Day celebrations, I told them about my 5-year-old granddaughter who challenged one of the dad’s and of how determined she was to get her point across. She reminded me of me. One of the ladies in the pool, Jane, had been a nurse at VA and knew my dad fairly well. So, when I said that out loud I explained that perhaps maybe I was a little strong-willed. She laughed and said your dad always talked about how strong-willed you were and he always said you marched to a different drummer. He never told me that when he lived. I think it felt something like sitting on the porch with him and hearing him say: “You can be anything you want, Beck.”

Barbara Anderson is a local human rights activist. Contact her at barbanderson_1@yahoo.com.

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