It always pierced like a knife to the heart.
When my children were young, I taught third grade religion class at my church. Each year, when I asked the students if they had any prayer requests, at least one or two children would respond: Please pray that God will make my daddy visit me.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children–1 out of every 3–live without a father in the home. According to numerous studies, children without the influence of a father more often live in poverty, have a higher incarceration rate, and higher rates of obesity and drug and alcohol abuse.
Sadly, many in today’s society do not seem to value fathers as much as they used to. Where once they were portrayed on television sit-coms as wise and benevolent, like Ward Cleaver of Leave it to Beaver, or Jim Anderson of Father Knows Best, all too often, fathers today are depicted with sub-par intelligence like Homer Simpson or Al Bundy. The new role of a father seems to be to provide comic relief, to be a nice addition, but not really a necessity in the family.
It’s obvious what mothers bring to a family, but what about fathers?
Just as mothers and fathers give you life, both help in their own ways to prepare you for living it. I was fortunate to grow up with both a father and a mother in-house. Without my dad, I’d be half the person I am today. When I was a child, he taught me the proper way to hold a bat, grip a golf club, cast a fishing line, and roll up a sleeping bag. From him, I learned how to keep score at a baseball game, and how not to coordinate clothing. To this day, I can hear him telling me that it’s a sin to waste ketchup and syrup by pouring great puddles of it on my food.
As I grew, he taught me how to solder, paint, lay tile, and put up wallpaper. He’s the reason I know the difference between a socket wrench and a crescent wrench. He is why I can pour a beer perfectly, and know the words to the Steelers Fight Song. My dad taught me how to make a fist so, if need be, I could defend myself. He also taught me when not to fight. When I was a teen, he taught me that you don’t run out the door when a date pulls up in front of the house and honks his horn. From him I learned that guys give you as much respect as you give yourself.
My father taught me the value of a dollar, the value of charity, and the value of life. When my teenage brother banged up the car for the third time, instead of screaming about the damage, he only asked if my brother was hurt. He showed me how to keep promises and stick to my commitments. He taught me to go to church, to school, to work, to the nursing home, and to the funeral home, even when I really felt like going elsewhere.
My dad taught me to never wallow in self-pity, and that life isn’t fair, but I should never give up trying to make it so. He taught me that grandfathers put up with a lot more than they did when they were fathers. From all of these “lessons,” I learned what it is to have the love of a father and how to pass that love on to my own children.
Like I said, I was blessed to have a father in my life. Many children today are not so fortunate. If you are a father who is separated from your child or children, don’t delay. Make today the day you become involved in their lives. Life is too short. If you’re thinking it’s too late or it won’t make any difference, there is a son or daughter out there just waiting to prove you wrong. And if you are lucky enough to have your children with you each and every day, make the most of your time with them! After all, a “real” dad is an “indispensable man!”