|My father Kova Meredith
Today is Father’s Day.
It’s a time when those who have one remember and (ideally) honor their fathers, those who had one remember their fathers, and those who had none mourn their losses.
In my work with juvenile delinquents, it’s common to talk to kids who’ve never met their fathers. Sometimes, their moms don’t know who or which one he was. Other moms, like mine, deliberately cut contact between the child and father.
Such a shame. Everyone needs a father.
What is a father, exactly? I looked at Dictionary.com today http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/father and found the following:
a father-in-law, stepfather, or adoptive father.
any male ancestor, especially the founder of a race, family,or line; progenitor.
a man who exercises paternal care over other persons;paternal protector or provider: a father to the poor.
My first father experience was my mother’s final husband. He appeared in my life when I was two or three years old and didn’t technically leave until I was finishing high school. I say technically because never fully there. Many years younger than my mother, uneducated, and a hard drinker, this father inflicted a lot of harm. I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean to, but he couldn’t ever seem to stop himself. He wasn’t cut out to be a role model, but he did provide financially, and I’m confident he loved me. And because of his greatly negative impact, I made up my mind to never expose my kids to out of control men with good intentions once my marriage collapsed. So that was good.
When I was twenty, I met my real father, Kova Meredith. He was seventy by then, and didn’t say too much. But when he did speak, it was worthwhile. “No one has the right to hit another person,” he once told me. That was a stunning departure from how I’d grown up, and this simple sentence later inspired a lot of change for me. My father wasn’t perfect, but he was transparent and accountable. He was a hard-working, plain-spoken man, happily playing with his kids long before it was chic for fathers to do so. He had to work at being a patient parent because it wasn’t modeled to him by his own dad. To that end, he was a successful man, and I admired him for it.
Several years later, I met Hank, or Charles Henry Rosenthal.
Then, deep in my twenties and already a single parent, I hadn’t realized truly wonderful life could be. I met him through his wife. Hank had been a prolific writer and successful oil lobbyist, and I met him just as he was about to retire. There was something about being around him. I felt safe and at peace. Hank was ornery, greeting me regularly with , “Hi, Guy! That extra weight you’ve put on looks great!” Ouch.
But he shared more comforting messages, too. “Never worry,” he’d tell me. “My mother always told me worrying is just borrowing tomorrow’s trouble.” Or perhaps my favorite, “Never miss an opportunity to keep your mouth shut,” which appeared at the top of Anchorage Daily News’ Finance section two years after his death. Hank had great impact on a lot of people.
But so do all fathers.
To my daughters, I wish for you a borrowed father like Hank.
To those who haven’t met their fathers, I sure hope you can find yours.
And to all dads, Happy Father’s Day.
Your importance can never be overestimated.