It’s nice to know that some publications still do the decent, honorable thing on Fathers Day and run positive pieces about dads. Here’s one (Salon.com, 6/20/10). And here’s another (New York Times, 6/20/10).
The first piece is by a single dad, Trey Ellis. He’s raised his two kids alone for seven years after his wife (their mother) walked out on them. His older child is a girl, now 10 years old and facing puberty, adolescence, boys and so forth. He says he feels less prepared for what’s just around the corner for him and his daughter than anything that’s come before. He writes touchingly about not only his efforts to come to grips with this new phase in her life, but of her childish efforts to reassure him. What we can tell is that, regardless of what difficulties his daughter’s sexual maturity may bring, he and she are going to be alright. Anyone who’s as thoughtful and caring as he is won’t go far wrong. The strong, loving relationship he’s built with his daughter would survive worse than her growing up.
What’s also noteworthy is his lack of acrimony toward the woman who left them all seven years ago. He’d like to toss some darts her way – and who could blame him if he did? – but he refrains. Does she pay child support? He doesn’t say. Does she contribute to their children’s upkeep, parenting, guidance, protection, etc. in any way? He doesn’t say. What do the children who are 10 and eight years old, feel about their absent mother? He doesn’t say. Those things are all very real, but Ellis is too honorable a man to kvetch publicly about his ex’s irresponsible behavior. It makes a nice comparison to a lot of what we read.
Nicholas Kristof’s piece in the Times is not about his own fatherhood, but his father’s. This is the first Fathers Day that Kristof hasn’t had his dad, who died just a short time ago at the age of 91.
To put it bluntly, the man was a marvel. Read the article; I can’t do it justice. Suffice it to say that Kristof’s dad was an Armenian immigrant who survived internment in a Nazi prison camp, escaped, swam the Danube River at night, was captured, endured forced labor, survived the war, immigrated to France and then to the United States where, at the age of 38, he began learning English, put himself through college and got a Ph.D. He spoke eight languages, equipped his farmhouse with a 30,000-book library and in his late 80s climbed to the top of his farm’s tallest tree to reach the right vantage point from which to photograph his cherry orchard in bloom.
But Kristof’s is not a story of his father’s many remarkable achievements. It’s a story of a man who was so strong, so smart, so dedicated that he would leave behind everything he knew in order to begin, in early middle age, a life that would be better for his children. He succeeded. The article has a beautiful photograph of Kristof’s dad from which the old man’s strength, intelligence, wit and deep humanity shine forth.
In college, Kristof taped one of his father’s statements on his dorm wall. It’s one we all should take to heart on this Fathers Day because, although the man probably didn’t have in mind the rights of fathers or relationships between men and women when he made it, it speaks to them nevertheless.
“War, want and concentration camps, exile from home and homeland, these have made me hate strife among men, but they have not made me lose faith in the future of mankind. … If man has been able to create the arts, the sciences and the material civilization we know in America, why should he be judged powerless to create justice, fraternity and peace?’