Saturday, June 16, 2007

Father's Day

Being A Father by John Henry Lee:

Are any of us the father we want to be or wish we'd been? I doubt it. Most of the Dads I know do the best they can, relatively speaking. The flip side of the coin is that there are some pretty sorry fathers. Amazingly, so many kids constantly are searching for their fathers, literally or figuratively, regardless if they were good or bad; there's something about wanting to know your real Dad: amazing.

I first encountered it when I was part of a group that started the organization, Vietnam Veterans Southeast Asia Children's Project, mostly working with Amerasian (mothers are Asian and fathers mostly American GIs) kids: all of them wanted to find their American fathers who didn't want anything to do with them. Pretty sad, but understandable. I remember one vet I located --he was so outraged that I would contact him because he had his own life now, wife, kids,etc. Vietnam was over forever and he doubted if the kid was his anyway. (I actually wrote a play about my encounter with him; and, if I ever get any big money, I'm going to produce it.)

Let's face it: In a real sense, the greatest job; or, at least the second (Mother first maybe) that anyone would ever have, is being a father. My own Dad was terrific; and, even today, I hear many things inside my head from him.

Recently, I was in a situation, not so much with me, but with a friend and I said, "The only thing I know to tell you is an expression my Dad used all the time: 'You might as well laugh as cry.' " I was amazed at hearing myself saying, "You might as well laugh as cry." I had not thought of the expression in years; and yet, when I needed the cogent comment, there was my Dad. Also, someone said to me recently, what was your first memory? Hands down it was when my Dad "whipped the daylights out of me" for cursing. I was about six.

There is a concept that we invent the parent of our childhood. I don't know. I do know that my older brothers and I have a somewhat different view of our Dad. I was the youngest, hung out with him lots and listened to his stories. He was a great storyteller and I listened over and over to the same one which always varied just a shade each time. From what I hear from my brothers, I got the best of him. When they were younger, putting bread on the table and making sure there was a future i.e., in other words, surviving consumed much of my Dad's time. When I came along, those things were more or less secured I think or maybe my Dad was just a little more easy-going with his sixth child, who knows.

But, I am a product of my own Dad and my children are of me. Please God, I hope I've done a good job, the most important one I'll ever have. Happy Father's Day and a special Hoooo-aaaaah to all the fathers in the armed forces who are away from their children this year.