Text by Henrylito D. Tacio
Image credit: sxc.hu
“It is much easier to become a father than to be one.” – Kent Nerburn in “Letters to My Son: Reflections on Becoming a Man” (1994)
Ah, to be a father.
“Becoming a father,” said the Oscar-nominated Hugh Jackman, “I think it inevitably changes your perspective of life. I don’t get nearly enough sleep. And the simplest things in life are completely satisfying. I find you don’t have to do as much, like you don’t go on as many outings.”
Unknowingly, to be a father is one of the hardest parts a man will undergo.
At one time, a close friend of American president Theodore Roosevelt asked him why he did not take a more active role in supervising his free-spirited daughter, Alice. Roosevelt purportedly replied, “I can be president of the United States, or I can attend to Alice. I can’t do both.”
Such is the quandary of most fathers. They can’t have both worlds; one can be neglected over the other. “To be a successful father,” advised American author Ernest Hemingway, “there’s one absolute rule: when you have a kid, don’t look at it for the first two years.”
But Sigmund Freud contradicted that idea. “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection,” he once said.
William Shakespeare, the father of English literature, agreed: “It is a wise father that knows his own child.”
Joe Kennedy knew this. For all his shortcomings, his loyalty to his children was absolute. “My business is my family and my family is my business,” he said.
At one time, Kennedy told Steve Smith, “You know, when I was just trying out for the freshman team for some of those swimming meets, my dad was always there. He was always there. He did the same for all the kids.”
Spending time with your kids as they grow is one of the best things a father can give to them.
When Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a Canadian developmental psychologist, became worried about his 13-year-old slavish imitation of her peers’ language and bearing, he booked a week-long vacation with her at a rented cottage.
Predictably, his daughter balked at the plan, “but we gradually rediscovered the closeness we’d had when she was younger,” Neufeld recalls. “When the week was over, we both agreed that it had been a great idea.”
An unknown author once wrote: “The greatest gift I ever had came from God; I call him Dad!” Yes, children emulate things from their father. Famous inventor Thomas Alva Edison had given his son, Charles Edison, one of the most remarkable lessons in life when he lost almost everything to fire. But Thomas was able, literally, rise from the ashes. Here is the story:
On the night of December 9, 1914, the great Edison Industries of West Orange was virtually destroyed by fire. Thomas Edison lost two million dollars that night and much of his life’s work went up in flames. He was insured for only US$238,000, because the buildings had been made of concrete, at that time thought to be fireproof.
“My heart ached for him,” Charles said of his father. “He was 67, not a young man anymore, and everything was going up in flames. He spotted me. ‘Charles,” he shouted, ‘where’s your mother?’ ‘I don’t know, Dad,’ I said. ‘Find her,’ he told me. ‘Bring her here. She will never see anything like this again as long as she lives.’”
The next morning, walking about the charred embers of all his hopes and dreams, Thomas said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God, we can start anew.” And three weeks after the fire, his firm delivered the first phonograph!
“The best gift a father can give to his son is the gift of himself – his time,” wrote C. Neil Strait. “For material things mean little, if there is not someone to share them with.” Another advice, “Live so that your son, when people tell him that he reminds them of you, will stick out his chest, not his tongue.”
Generally, children have fond memories of their father. “My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard,” Harmon Killebrew recalled. Mother would come out and say, ‘You’re tearing up the grass.’ ‘We’re not raising grass,’ Dad would reply. ‘We’re raising boys.”
Clarence Budington Kelland has this recollection of his father: “He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” Hank Williams, Jr. admitted: ‘My daddy, he was somewhere between God and (Hollywood actor) John Wayne.”
“I am not ashamed to say that no man I ever met was my father’s equal, and I never loved any other man as much,” said Hedy Lamarr. Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry has the view in mind when she said: “I know that I will never find my father in any other man who comes into my life, because it is a void in my life that can only be filled by him.”
Ah, to be a father. “That is the thankless position of the father in the family – the provider for all, and the enemy of all,” deplored J. August Strindberg. And oftentimes, children have a hard time understanding this role.
In The Bonfire of the Vanities, author Tom Wolfe wrote this statement in of his characters: “Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later… that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life.”
How true, indeed!