Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll anticipates Father’s Day this Sunday in GOD BLESS THE DADDIES. She writes:

Sunday, of course, is Father’s Day. Despite decades of being portrayed in sitcoms and commercials as brainless twits who would be lost without the superior intelligence of their eye-rolling wives and children, the true importance of fathers can scarcely be overstated. If you doubt me, visit any prison jammed to bursting with lost fatherless men.

In our neighborhood in the 50s and 60s, the fathers were the stuff of small-town life: shopkeepers, house painters, teachers, ministers, highway patrolmen, traveling salesmen, car salesmen, insurance adjusters, mechanics and carpet-layers. Several of my parents’ best friends were farmers, although, needless to say, they lived on farms.

They were Old School Daddies who did not change diapers except under the greatest duress – the wife in hospital with the plague, or another baby – nor did they share housework. They worked; for most professions, that was more or less dawn to dusk, including weekends. My Dad had 3 Sundays off a month. It was one of life’s great mysteries what the T.V. Daddies did who had the ability to hang around the house all day playing tricks on “the gals” with the other indolent husbands.

If my neighborhood housed great intellectuals, they were well hidden. Which doesn’t at all mean they weren’t smart guys. They knew all kinds of useful stuff. But, very few of us get a father who is or was a towering intellectual giant – an Irving Kristol, say, a Victor Davis Hanson, a WFB. Nor were most of our daddies universally-respected pillars of the community like my friend Angela’s father, John O. Smith, who had over 1,000 people at his funeral, or Irving Hinderaker (what is it about the name Irving?) such that they are inducted into a community Hall of Fame.

This is a paean just to the average, responsible guy who tries his best. To the Daddy who is there for the 1-0 soccer matches in the rain, and also at the dance recitals which should by law come with an infinity symbol on the program. To the Daddy who goes to work every workday and comes home every night to eat dinner. Or breakfast, if he works graveyard. To the Daddy who teaches manliness to his sons and what to look for in a man to his daughters.

Author Jillian Churchill has famously said, “There is no way to be a perfect mother; and a million ways to be a good one.” Thank God for all our good fathers, even the ones who are as disappointingly human at times as we ourselves are. Even Tony Soprano was allowed to have “issues.” Nobody gets out of this vale of tears unscathed. My father’s whole family was shattered by the loss of the oldest son in battle in the Pacific. Unless you’re talking about shutting an actual door, “closure” is a silly made-up word. There is no such thing, only coping.

My bedroom was in the partially-finished basement of our home. One night in about the 4th grade I had a terrible nightmare and woke up convinced that a very bad monster was in my room. I screamed bloody murder and Daddy ran downstairs in about 10 seconds. He looked everywhere for the bad guy with a flashlight, hugged me, and I was able to go back to sleep because Daddy was on the job. He wasn’t that imposing physically, and though we had deer rifles and shotguns, we never had a handgun in the house. But he was Daddy and there was no doubt that he was in charge. Only the most foolhardy of monsters would dare to take him on! We were safe. And safe is essential in a perilous world.

I have never read anything more beautiful or moving than Jonah Goldberg’s eulogy for his late father, Sid Goldberg, called “The Hop Bird.” Google it if you haven’t read it. Bring tissues. But few of us get the brilliant, wise, humorous father who always says exactly the perfect thing. The daddies in my neighborhood said things more along the lines of “Don’t make me stop this car.” Or, “Stop crying, or I’ll give you something to cry about,” and that wasn’t all bad either. I have been maintaining for years, with all the hullabulloo about “bullying” – as though that’s a brand-new, hitherto undiscovered thing! – that we don’t need more “zero tolerance” rules; we need tougher, more resilient kids.

Daddy taught me to bait a hook, to golf, to hit a baseball, throw a spiral, to mow the grass. To work 12 hours a day in a drugstore, wait on customers pleasantly, asking “May I help you?” and count back their change the old-fashioned way. To save money and eschew debt. To be on time, which he defined as 10 minutes early.

And despite the ludicrous feminist contention that little girls of the era were forcibly prevented from playing with blocks and herded behind razor wire into the doll corner in school, neither he nor any teacher ever made me feel that there was anything I couldn’t do or accomplish because I was a girl. There were four of us in the Class of ’64 who shared valedictory honors: three girls and just one boy, who was also my debate partner. No Affirmative Action; no disparate impact; no IX or any other Titles required. Just high expectations and effort.

Perhaps most important, Daddy taught me to fight back. To defend myself and others from bullies. He made me assertive enough to defend my beliefs, which always seemed to be at odds with popular thought. I thank Daddy for that contrarian spirit, and hundreds of other things. He is almost 90 now, and last time I visited and took him and Mom out for Chinese, they had a minor argument on the way about whether they were sharing Cashew Chicken or Orange Beef. And I was able, at last, to say to him, “Don’t make me stop this car.” And then add, “Heck, let’s just get both.”

Happy Father’s Day, good daddies, one and all.


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