17 June 2009

Father's Day

I had long suspected that Father’s Day was something of an afterthought, created in response to Mother’s Day. A quick check of Wikipedia supports that. Sonora Smart Dodd, a young mother from Washington, formed the idea for the celebration in 1909 while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon at the Central Methodist Church in Spokane. She felt her father, a widower, deserved recognition for the sacrifices he had made in raising the family of six following her mother’s death.

The idea did not gain instant approval. Whereas Mother’s Day was easily adopted, it took several years – over two decades - for Father’s Day to gain wide acceptance as a celebration. Articles ridiculed and satirized the idea of commemorating Father’s Day. After all, fathers didn’t need flowers, and they certainly didn’t need mushy greeting cards.

Spurred on by support from retailers, the idea eventually caught on and grew to be celebrated in countries around the world. Many countries observe Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June, while others celebrate on other days of the year.

As a native Iowan, I have always been partial to the Kevin Costner movie, “A Field of Dreams.” If you haven’t seen it, it’s the story of Ray Kinsella, an Iowa farmer by marriage who hears a voice murmuring through the darkness among the corn stalks, urging “If you build it, he will come.” He bulldozes his corn field to make a baseball diamond where old-time ballplayer ghosts appear to relive their past glory. Final moments reveal that one of the baseball players is Ray Kinsella’s father. Ray, who was estranged from his father, has the opportunity to meet his father as just another man. That part always makes me cry.

My father passed away in 1985. I’d like to have an opportunity to sit down with my dad and talk to him as just another person. It’s one of the recurring themes as I work on my family history and discover those things that just never came up. I learned too late that due to his 4-F draft status, my father spent World War II as a dance instructor. (Tough job but someone had to do it.) I never danced with him. And when I think of that, it always makes me cry, too.

As I learn more about the influences on the lives of my parents and grandparents, I have gained insight into the motives and reasons behind the actions they took, the beliefs they held, and the things they said.

Talk to your father this weekend. If you are lucky enough to be able to sit with him in the same room, or listen to his words over the telephone, celebrate and rejoice in that. If you can’t reach out and touch him, or can’t hear his words, you can still feel him in your heart.

Happy Father’s Day


The photo? Taken at my wedding in 1972.

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