Thoughts from the ammo line

Ammo Grrrll is seriously CELEBRATING DADDIES. She writes:

Once again, I take pen in hand – or keyboard in stride – to extol the wonderfulness of males in general, but particularly of fathers. It is my honor and privilege so to do. In fact, as a woman, I feel it is incumbent upon me to counter all the “toxic masculinity” garbage heaped for fifty years upon our husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, colleagues and friends. It is horribly wrong on a personal level and destructive beyond cataloguing on a civilizational level.

That kind of relentless opprobrium would not be tolerated against any other “category” of human beings. Yes, it was tolerated against African-Americans for several centuries. But it was largely remedied decades ago now. That kind of bigotry was wrong and ugly then and it is wrong and ugly now, not made more acceptable with a different category of victim.

I have extolled the virtues of Daddies for 10 years’ worth of columns now, so the question is – do I have anything new to say?

Well, there are several categories of Dads that I wish to salute today, starting, once again, with my own Daddy and his generation. Daddy and almost all of his cohort were WW2 vets. They were DADS and not “pals.” Sensitivity was not their long suit – that was for mommies.

As I have said before, they were not overly impressed with skinned knees, mosquito bites, and such. “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,” was the mantra of the day. “Walk it off.” “Rub some dirt on it.” And the like. I not only have no resentment about this, I am grateful that it made me a little toughie who could stand up to most anything, including hecklers! Which, to my great astonishment, came in very handy later in life.

My Dad was not a Father Knows Best kind of Daddy, though Ladyhawke’s Daddy was and I adored him. I perceived him as some kind of otherworldly Space Alien Daddy.

Society had no words yet for Daddy’s situation, but I’m pretty sure he had serious PTSD from his own service, his Marine brother’s death in the Pacific, and the endless repercussions for the whole extended family. He had episodic depression and a barely controlled rage that could emerge at any time – though he was neither a drinker nor violent to us. He worked hard to support us; was a fierce protector, and we always knew we were loved. He was demonstrably affectionate, though never inappropriate. I did not shower with him even once, and not only because we didn’t HAVE one.

There was no such thing as a Participation Trophy in his world and he was tough to please. The standards he set served me well in pursuit of excellence. There was never a single expectation he had for our brother that he didn’t have for my sister and me.

Unlike so many of the rest of us, he was imperfect, but, Lord, I miss him every day.

For the next generation – Joe/Max’s generation of fathers – fathers were supposed to be “parents,” not “fathers” (and there is a difference). Now, “time-outs” were the order of the day rather than as comedian Fred Klett described for him and his 9 siblings – “pick a belt and go wait for me upstairs.” (Look for him on Dry Bar YouTube – he’s clean and hilarious.)

Joe/Max was and is a wonderful father. He taught our son the manly arts, such as how to throw and catch, the Infield Fly Rule, “buy low, sell high,” and “if a job is worth doing, it is worth hiring someone who knows how to do it,” but also such sage advice as, “if a woman says ‘we have to talk’ – RUN!.” Also since we had access to cultural enrichment, he took him to the Children’s Museum, Twins games, Como Park, and Star Wars movies.

The very first time I heard the obnoxious phrase “Toxic Masculinity” paired with the even worse “Rape Culture,” it was at a gig where the women asserting those things were my lead-in to entertaining a group of women at a luncheon. I took it personally as a horrendous slander on every male I had ever known and loved. It’s a miracle that I was able to do my act with steam coming out my ears, daggers coming out my eyes, and a frozen smile pasted on my face. I was even mad at the stupid women’s committee that had invited them.

But that was over 30 years ago, so I’m almost over it. What of more modern Daddies? I have been extremely impressed with the ones in my extended family, except for what I regard as excessive worry about “bullying.” For heaven’s sake, sign them up for karate! When I first started hearing about the new, heretofore unheard-of tragedy of “bullying” in school, my initial thought was, “We don’t need feel-good posters and sensitivity training – we need TOUGHER KIDS.”

Just to be clear, I do not APPROVE of bullying or meanness of any kind. I was raised to be kind to all. To my certain knowledge, I have never teased, bullied, or made fun of a single other human being – not counting political figures — UNLESS I was attacked first! Then I could hold my own. Especially verbally, though less well physically, more’s the pity.

Was there bullying when I was a kid? Oh for Pete’s sake, yes! Kids were mercilessly teased because they were fat, thin, short, tall, had bigger than standard noses, acne, uncool clothes, and on and on. My late bestie, who much much later married another woman, insisted that in grade school I would always defend the picked-upon, the slightly weird, the misfits, and the “sissies.” Usually I got my butt kicked, but that is also a legacy from my Daddy: FIGHT BACK. Even if you lose. Losing is more honorable than not fighting.

Not all marriages work out, sadly. And divorced, non-custodial dads have a tough row to hoe. Divorce is an ugly business. Nevertheless, divorced daddies can rise to the occasion. I know one father of three who took all his lunchtimes from work to go have lunch in the school lunchrooms with his kids, racing from one to another and never enjoying a real respite from work. Later he had a quadruple bypass…but I’m sure there was no connection.

We see a lot of movies about the non-custodial parent – always the daddy – missing birthdays and school plays, scheduled visitation, and child support payments. But in a family I am familiar with it was the women who were non-custodial. They either abandoned the children utterly or, for the regularly scheduled “every other weekend custody arrangement,” picked them up as late as possible on Friday nights and returned them in dirty clothes at the crack of dawn on Sundays and called it a weekend.

Meanwhile, this left the daddy in that scenario with four kids to raise from two marriages. He did all the cooking, laundry, cleaning, attended all the PTA and teacher meetings, went to all the athletic events, and school plays — all while either earning a living or going to school to earn a BETTER living. In the first set of kids, the non-custodial mother owed child support payments of $100/month per child. Yes, really. Not even enough to pay for HALF of the daycare expenses, to say nothing of school clothes and supplies, shoes, mortgage, car payments, groceries and gas for the car.

Thank the dear Lord that a righteous stepMOTHER (the villain in fairy tales) appeared over 35 years ago. And what of the stepFATHERS? Great guitarist and brilliant lyricist Brad Paisley has a song about stepfathers that I can never hear without tearing up. In the first part of the lyrics, the single mother finds that when most dates learn she has a young boy, it’s a deal-breaker. But a man appears who includes the boy in outings and asks the woman to marry him. The boy is thrilled and these lyrics follow (Kleenex optional):

And then all of a sudden, oh, it seemed so strange to me
How we went from something’s missin’ to a family
Lookin’ back all I can say about all the things he did for me
Is I hope I’m at least half the dad that he didn’t have to be.

So, dear men within the sound of my virtual voice, whether you are a long-married Dad, a divorced Dad, a stepDad, or a widowed Dad, and especially a young Dad with school-age children, you are a twin pillar holding up what’s left of civilization. Thank you for your efforts up to this day and I wish you the strength to carry on. Come Sunday, have a blessed and Happy Father’s Day.

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