With Fatherís Day upcoming this week, I must reflect not only upon my dadís influence on my family, but upon the authority I have over the welfare of my own sons, stepdaughters, and soon to be infant daughter. Things get passed down. We cannot avoid this.
A Spokane, Wash. woman began the celebration in 1910. According to the Spokane Regional Convention & Visitor Bureau, ďSonora Smart Dodd, often referred to as the ĎMother of Fatherís Day,í was 16 years old when her mother died in 1898, leaving her father William Jackson Smart to raise Sonora and her five younger brothers on a remote farm in Eastern Washington.Ē Motherís Day was already a tradition. Smart Dodd felt fathers deserved their due.
It seems that this time of year was always busy on the farm, during some of the hottest days. Black-eyed Susans grew from the weeds grazed by cattle in the west lot. They turned the banks of ponds bright yellow. My dad always kept his property clean, brush-cut and painted, though the outbuildings mightíve been falling down. A metal hay barn west of the timber was meant for square bales, and I recall riding on the hayrack from the field above Medicine Creek, which dipped down into a gulley, across the road through ruts to the shed, and back. At the time, that work seemed much more enjoyable, since I was too small to help. It was hard work, I understand now, but my dad must have loved it. Most of the time I saw him, he was tired. It was a tough love.
I did not know at the time that that hay would sustain our cattle in winter. I was not well acquainted with consequences, other than if you touched a hot stove, it would burn you. Thatís why raising children can be difficultóat the advent of the development of language, sometimes the only way to reach them is through a system of punishment and reward. Yet they still do the same things repeatedly despite our best efforts to train them.
With my dad, I believe he enjoyed the earliest stages of his childrenís lives, because they had not yet learned to talk back. If they behaved irrationally, it was endearing, because who wants a rational baby?
My dad received an early Fatherís Day gift one year, which was my wifeís miniature dachshund, Mocha. He got evicted (Mocha, not my dad). This happens to many yippy, dappled wiener dogs with one blue eye. They donít agree well with the city. And if the store that sells them to you says they can be litter trained, just laugh and hand the dog back, or prepare to buy a new carpet after a few years. I, however, did not have a choice. I woke up one morning and had Mocha in bed with me. A few months later, I magnanimously presented him to my father.
Jennifer finds my dadís relationship with Mocha perplexing. He worries constantly about that little dog. One time, when there was a bald eagle in one of our trees, my dad worried the eagle might swoop down and take Mocha. Which is possible, I suppose. Jennifer thinks my dad needs something small and helpless to care for and worry about. Mocha will never outgrow that stage. Unfortunately, his children did, and I donít think my dad has ever forgiven us. He needs something to protect. For being so impatient, he sure did not want us to grow old.
During the blazing heat of summer, life seemed effortless out of ignorance. As children, we could not grasp all of the hands that sustained us, that renewed us from season to season. My dad helped us persevere the extremes. Yet, at the time, I gave him no more credit than a ghost rapping on a window. My dad farmed acres and acres of land spread out over many miles, and he was excellent at maintaining the details even when overextended.
Sometimes I think I overestimate my reach. I get too busy doing such things as writing columns, that I do not concentrate enough energy on the people I see most, bustling through my house with a vigor that withers the purple irises in my back yard.
Iím more interested in milestones, by nature, than hovering around like a helicopter. That is by no means what my dad did, but you could definitely feel his presence even when he wasnít home. Iím amazed by development. Really, by all the laws of reason, thereís no sense in our growth out of nothing. Yet here we are, comprehending the universe, and figuring out how to get the lid off of our motherís water bottle, leaving bits of residue to float inside after weíre done (my wife really does not like that).
It is redundant to say that weíre all connected, and that we are relatively ignorant of the influence of others. Some only know how to manipulate. There is nothing genuine about them. If they create something, it is merely by accident. Thatís one thing I can say about my dadóheís genuine. He will tell you what you need to know, even if it hurts. Sometimes heíll tell you more than you need to know. I didnít respond well to punishment. Thatís not good if your dad is a former drill sergeant. The best way I can explain it is to say I was set at a different level, a different frequency, at an early age.
It is always frustrating when what interests you does not interest someone else. I have to be careful about that with my family. Thereís nothing worse than believing that everybody else should think exactly like you. That makes for an excellent cult leader, but not the best father. I feel lucky to have come from the Selby compound. I could have done much worse, and thereís a lot I can learn from my experiences. If I did not learn genuine love, it was not my fatherís fault.