Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thoughts about Fathers

As you know, today is Father’s Day in the U.S. and in many other countries around the world, so Happy Father’s Day to all of you fathers who read this.
Today I feel sad that I no longer can express thanks to my father. I was especially sad in 2008, when for the first time in my life I could not wish him a happy birthday on March 21 or give him a card or token of appreciation on Father’s Day. But I remain grateful to him for the gift of life and the material and spiritual nurture he gave me.
I am happy today to be the father of four adult children as well as the grandfather of seven. They are a joy to me, and I appreciate the way they live from day to day and year to year far more than any words or tokens of appreciation I may (or may not) receive today.
I am also happy that both of my sons are good fathers; my oldest son the father of two grown daughters, my youngest son the father of two small daughters, the younger of whom was born in February of this year. The picture on the right makes me think Ken is a proud father, which he has a right to be.
It is not easy being a father. In many cases it is much too easy to become a father; but being a father is quite difficult. That is especially true when the father is expected to be the head of the home and the main “breadwinner” for the family. That is the traditional position of fathers in this country, but one that has changed considerably during my lifetime. It is also a very common idea in Asia and in other parts of the world.
Earlier this month, June and I watched “Tokyo Sonata” (2008), an intriguing movie about a Japanese “salaryman,” a husband and father, who loses his job because of downsizing but tries to carry on without telling his wife and children. His attempt to maintain his position of authority in the home leads to near disaster for both him and his wife as well as for their two sons.
As those of you who are familiar with my ideas or who have read my book Fed Up with Fundamentalism know, I do not accept the “chain of command” idea, which has been forwarded by Bill Gothard, among many others, and widely accepted by many conservative Christians. That idea is as much Confucian as it is Christian, and among other things, it leads to inordinate pressure on husbands and fathers, such as is so graphically portrayed in “Tokyo Sonata.”
So, I write this in honor and praise of fathers today, but also in gratitude that many fathers now don’t have to carry the same heavy load so many in the past had to bear. It's still not easy to be a father, but, thankfully, the increasing emphasis on gender equality makes it easier for many than it used to be.


  1. Happy Father's Day to you, Dad! You have been and continue to be a wonderful father to me. I love and respect you in many ways. Thank you for all the time and energy you put forth to be such a good father (and grandfather).

  2. Here are a couple of poems I've written in memory of my Dad.

    My Father’s Shovel

    My foot applies pressure to worn metal.
    The shovel point penetrates the ground
    to plant Stella d’ora lilies, whose petals
    will poke like yellow trumpets from the mounds
    of dirt I move. The broken handle begs
    to be replaced, but I cannot remove
    wood that retains the father-fashioned peg
    holding the pieces in its fine chiseled grove.
    The pumpkin patch he spaded each spring, the graves
    he dug for dogs and cats, the snow removed
    from under Jim’s wheel the night he forgave
    our late return, a date never approved.
    I clean the dirt from hands that held what he
    held. Lilies sound his melody to me.

    It Has To Be the Cinderella Complex

    The tail of my dress hanging below the nearly outgrown raincoat
    was as wet as my soggy shoes and socks. Huddled on the cold
    vinyl of the school bus seat, the dampened pages of my arithmetic
    book clutched to my breast, I watched the early spring rain
    stream down the window blurring the world beyond the lurch
    and sway of the bus on the mud and gravel of the country road

    that led me away from spelling drills and history recitations
    to the warmth of our kitchen and the smell of hamburgers
    smothered in onions, fried potatoes, and cucumber pickles.
    Muddy water rising in the ditches increased my fear
    that the bus might not be able to cross the Clearfork bridge,

    that the low-lying road leading to the bridge might be flooded,
    daring the bus driver to go no further. A forced sleep-over
    might have held its own appeal, but on this night, I restlessly
    contemplated supper at a strange table, coagulated grease
    on hardened sausage, tasteless green beans, succotash

    or mashed potatoes and watery gravy, The feel of flannel
    sheets pressed by other bodies, the image of my head
    next to someone else’s head on a lumpy pillow, a quilt
    made of patches from some other child’s dresses,
    wearing a freshly starched dress that was not mine, worn

    socks and underwear of even a close friend seemed repugnant
    against my pre-menstrual longing for the sanctuary of my home,
    the welcoming lick of our spaniel, and the familiar water marks
    on the wallpaper above my bed, marks that seemed ominous
    during the high fever of chickenpox, the delirium of measles.

    Three longs and two shorts--the telephone jarred against
    my edgy psyche as I sat staring at the round six-inch TV screen,
    black and white images of Howdy-Doody flickering
    in the darkening room. "Yes, she's here. The bus could not cross
    the Clearfork bridge." Silence. "She can stay the night."

    I longed to melt into the wires bridging our two houses,
    to inexplicably defy the elements that blocked my passage
    home. "Your dad's coming through the woods by Baily
    Crossing. The land is higher there, and he should
    be able to avoid the flood waters if he hurries."

    Bouncing on the wheel cover of our old Ford tractor,
    rain pelting the old blanket he had wrapped around
    my shoulders, I watched the rain drip from the bill
    of his leather cap, his glasses fogging, and I believed
    he would always come to take my home.

    Rosanne Osborne

  3. Karen Seat-DaoustJune 20, 2010 at 11:31 AM

    I enjoyed reading your good post about Fathers today, Dad. Thank you for your kind comments about your children! That is a nice picture of Ken with baby Natalie.

    Thank you for being a wonderful father and grandfather!


  4. while growing up, my mother always made more money than my father. She was a teacher, my father a preacher (mostly in small country churches). It was never an issue in our house. My dad was also the main caregiver because he was able to stay home with us when we were sick and run us to and from practices. Again, it never occured to us that this was unusual. So I thank both my father and mother for not raising my brothers and me in a home of stereotypical expectations. I think we are all better parents because of it.
    I too lost my father 2 years ago. I miss him -- his support, words of encouragement, and experiential advice.
    Happy fathers day to all fathers -- but especially those who take their jobs seriously! You are much needed!

  5. The best characteristics of my own father were humility, hope, and adventure. My fond memories were getting up several creeks with him. Yet I never remember seeing a paddle in his hand. But he did teach me the necessity of prayer.

    Although he had some means, he has view them as resources to share with others, and still drives a 15 year old, banged up truck, so he can better spread the resources to where they can multiply for others.

    I am also sincerely thankful for a like-minded father-in-law who taught my wife resourcefulness, generosity and trust in God.

    I hope our children can catch these traits. I know my Uncle Bill emphasizes them with family stories each time we see him.

    Thank you for the legacy.

  6. Your book "Fed up with Fundamentalism" came in the mail today. I read the first few pages before going off to class. Now I know that I am not alone on a number of issues that I have struggled with over the past few years. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your book. And Happy Father's Day to you.

  7. In addition to the greetings from my two daughters (above), I was also happy to receive the following e-mail messages from Ken:

    "Happy father's day, Dad! Thank you for always supporting me. It was fun to see the picture of me holding Natalie on your blog. Yes, I am a proud father indeed!