Delaney: Anticipating Father's Day
These days, if someone says to you “Fathers’ Day is just around the corner,” you might have to look around more than one corner – since it seems like there just aren’t as many fathers around for kids these days as there used to be.
No description will fit all fathers but if you asked, I’d give you one word that sums up my father, and that would be “Strength.” I’d also have to add that his strength was quiet. I don’t have to dig deep in my memory for examples to share.
His name was Joe and he was the ninth child of Irish immigrant parents.
Joe was a card carrying member of the “greatest generation.” He was a paratrooper in World War II, and a member of that conflict’s most heroic band of brothers, the 101st Airborne.
Once I asked him if every time he jumped out of a plane, it was easier than the time before. “No,” he answered, “it was harder.” And he said no more.
In high school I struggled with Algebra. One night my dad asked me if I had done my Algebra homework. I had not but answered yes. I lied. He knew it but expressed no anger and threatened no punishment. Instead, he spent the next several nights doing Algebra with me. The following quarter at school I was on the Honors List. Quiet strength was my father's answer to a deceitful son.
Then there was the time I got into huge trouble at school with my seventh grade teacher, a Catholic nun, and I was sure my days were numbered. I had boldly talked back to her and with Sr. Mary that was tantamount to a death wish.
When my dad came home from work he sat me down. He assured me teachers were human just like everyone else, even Catholic sisters, and they too made mistakes. Wow. My dad was a friend. Even now I can feel the tension from that event evaporating from my mind. Again, a father with quiet strength trumped anger in a rebellious teenager.
My father never spoke of his experiences in the awful years of World War II, but I’ve seen his medals, including one that’s purple. A buddy of his, whom I did not know and who came from far away for my dad’s funeral, told me that Joe had even been, “for a time,” operations officer at the horrific Battle of the Bulge. I never knew.
We joke these days whether or not men are necessary and I’ll duck that argument. But, I will say that fathers are desperately needed to show kids how to grow up well and strong, and to stay that way. This Fathers’ Day, I’m going to visit the Veterans’ Cemetery where my father rests. I’ll say hello to him, tell him I miss him, and tell him I wish he could have told me more about himself – there was so much more worth telling and knowing.