Father’s Day is a time for introspection

Published 8:00 am Friday, June 17, 2022

Father’s Day should be a time for introspection, for thinking about what our fathers mean to us and about what we fathers mean to our children.

For some, that’s like opening a can of worms, so I’ll grab a handful of those little wigglers and get started.

You can let me know if I’m wrong about this, but I believe the passage of time does for our memories what regularly grooming your horse does for its coat. The more times a horse is brushed, the more it shines; but it doesn’t change the horse’s behavior or actions. So it is our nature to push into the back corners of our brains the parts we don’t like–the parts that make us uncomfortable or feel guilty.

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I think about the things my Dad taught me, and I think about the things that he never taught me. Then I try to put all of that on one pan of life’s balancing scale. Across the scale in the other pan, I put my own fatherhood–some accomplishments but plenty of failures.

More than anything else, my Dad taught me that there is value in good, hard, honest work. We were farmers. When I was 14 years old, I finally received his approval to drive a tractor with a four-row seed planter on the back. This came after countless other jobs, including working as the person who dragged heavy bags of seed onto the planter deck and poured it into the seed hoppers. Then, I would ride on the back and watch him plant rows in black-bottom soil that were as straight as a taut string. That, he said, shows others that you care about the quality of your work.

 

Once I daydreamed and let the tractor drift off the line made by my row marker. I saw it right away and got myself back on course, then glanced over my right shoulder to see how bad it looked. Of course, that caused me to get off track again. It was a mess.

The rest of the day I was on target, and at supper that night I wrestled with whether I should tell him about my error. I finally decided to soften my confession by saying I got off line once.

 

“Twice,” he said.

 

“Right,” I said.

 

Heeding his lesson about the value of hard work, I took second and third shifts and traveled a lot to move up on the Associated Press ladder. Moving up to better pay and assignments meant relocating my family, something I did 10 times in 20 years.

 

In retrospect, my three children paid an emotional price for my successful career. It is not something that fills me with fatherly pride. These days, I find myself declining to offer them career advice. I envy those stay-at-home fathers or those who never leave the town where they grew up.

 

It’s unfortunate when true introspection doesn’t occur until we’re saddling up for the last ride because it can mean that what we see behind us isn’t a pretty sunset.

 

Larry McDermott is a local retired farmer/journalist. Reach him at hardscrabblehollow@gmail.com