AMERICUS — Mark Twain, in “Old Times on the Mississippi,” in the Atlantic Monthly, of 1874, wrote, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”
Fatherhood, in a time of layoffs, layoff threats, stay-at-home dads, cell phones for pre-teens, just can’t be easy.
Being the father of Glen, Donna, Tracey and Becky hasn’t always been a piece of cake for James, and I am sure there were times, OK, I know there were times when being the child of James Holland, the McGyvor of our times, has not been a bowl of banana pudding either.
We’re an odd mix, kind of like the furniture in my house. There is a chair left over from the previous tenants that Toby, the K-9 ruler of the abode, has claimed as his own; a really cool couch with tons of personality (that is the politically correct way of saying stains beyond cleaning) from the Habitat ReStore, a rocking chair that belonged to my Grandma Madison, a green (or is it teal?) chair from the Hannah Center (a shelter for women that I supervised in another town), two end tables that are dark in color from the Habitat ReStore, rugs from my laughing partner, a table from the Hut (my old house) and a coffee table from wherever YKW (that You Know Who meaning the number one queen in my life, my mom) and the list goes on.
Mix matched. As my dad would say, whatever works. At the end of the day, does it really matter that you have the name brand couch to match the color of the shade in the lamp?
Sort of like family, like an adult daughter’s relationship with her father or vice versa?
At the end of the day, does it matter if I did everything Daddy said or that he agreed with me or said the words I wanted to hear?
Heck, yeah. No, not that he said the words I wanted to hear or that he agreed with me, but shoot, I may be almost 40 (seven months away) and Daddy maybe turning 76 in September, and I may be about (muffled words) pounds heavier than him ... I ain’t stupid.
Daddy has always had an easygoing attitude about life, and hoped to raise his four children in a Christian manner. I never saw him drink alcohol, never heard him curse or watch an ugly movie or smoke and never did I see him look at another woman ... mind you, the one cool man in my life has his flaws, and he will point them out to you (I won’t, because again, I ain’t stupid), but what has made him a real dad and friend is that he has allowed us to see those flaws.
With Daddy, there is a life lesson in most everything we do, say, hear, feel or touch. Sometimes, he will tell and share, but other times, he will cause or did cause us to think for ourselves. I thought about my own dad, and some of the most famous dads in history, fictional and not. How could he compare to them or them to him?
What about your own dad?
Take a walk with me, and let’s ponder our dads, others’ dads, and lessons that we can learn from them, if we only listen.
My dad wasn’t a doctor, nor did he play one on television, but I can honestly say that I saw so many characteristics in the fictional Cliff Huxtable on the Cosby Show that my dad had been showing for years.
Do you remember the conversation between Cliff’s son Theo and his father about his grades? "Theo, that's the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life. No wonder you get Ds in everything. Now you're afraid to try, because you're afraid that your brain is going to explode, and it's going to ooze out of your ear. Now, I'm telling you that you're going to try as hard as you can, and you are going to do it because I said so. I am your father! I brought you into this world and I'll take you out!"
And then Cliff hugged Theo.
That’s my dad. Whereas I, well, I will react, and be the thermometer in a situation, either freeze or get boiling mad and react and react and say things I don’t mean and stew over things and hold grudges or beat myself up over mistakes. My dad ... he’s the proactive one.
He can speak a lot of words or a few or just give you that look — you know, it is the opposite of the Momma Look. It is the one that will erase all words and thoughts out of your mind and mouth and make a grown man (woman) sit back in his (her) seat, hands folded. Or he would say, “Straighten up and fly right,” with the most serious, stern face and voice(and a twittering twinkle in his eyes).
And then, Daddy moves on to the next thing.
That’s just the way he is.
Aggravating for a daughter, especially one who tends to pick things up like a dog grabs at a bone and just can’t let go until well past the flavor has gone.
Like Bill Cosby’s Huxtable character, with my dad, you find that tough love goes down almost as easy as a bowl of Jell-O pudding.
Atticus Finch, the widower and dedicated lawyer in Harper Lee’s classic American novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was perhaps one of literature’s wisest and most moral fathers, who refused to conform to the racist norms of the Deep South, and he never babied his children, and talked to them like grown-ups in order to raise them into morally aware adults.
He said, “When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don't make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion faster than adults, and evasion simply muddles 'em."
What we can learn from Atticus? Tell it like it is.
And that is James Holland through and through.
One of my favorite movies of all time was My Girl, where Dan Aykroyd played Harry Sultenfuss, the single father of the precocious Vada. An awkward man who doesn’t understand his daughter’s often strange whims and passions but never stops loving her ferociously and trying to protect. His work as a funeral director and his wife’s death have helped to morph his daughter into a death-obsessed hypochondriac, but he gently refuses to pacify her.
(Quit laughing, Daddy.)
Vada said, “Dad, I don't want to upset you, but my left breast is developing at a significantly faster rate than my right. It can only mean one thing: Cancer. I'm dying.”
Harry answered, without looking up from making supper, “OK, sweetie. Hand me the mayonnaise out of the fridge.”
Love your kids fiercely, like Harry did, even if they’re weird.
(What about if your dad’s weird?)
My laughing partner (Robert, to those of you who didnt know. Beth is going to regret the day that she put us in desks right next to each other!) and I were discussing what makes a dad a dad and what the difference is between a father and a dad.
A father is, well, there. He is present at your band concerts where you play the clarinet. He is present at the piano recitals, the church plays, the ball games, the parent/teacher conferences, the family dinners and Christmas gatherings, the graduations, the births, and the swimming lessons.
A daddy coaches.
A daddy cheers.
A daddy builds a set.
A daddy gets on his old work shorts after a hard day’s work to sit with his youngest daughter in her kiddie pool.
A daddy teaches.
Helen Thomson wrote, “Dads are stone skimmers, mud wallowers, water wallopers, ceiling swoopers, shoulder gallopers, upsy-downsy, over-and-through, round-and-about whoosers. Dads are smugglers and secret sharers.”
I have a daddy, what about you?
And to you fathers, dads, daddys, grandpas, poppas, remember that as you open your presents, some you will never use, others you will wonder how to use, dads, do know that we kids are listening and hearing ... It might just take us a little while to grasp the concept of what you have been trying to teach us.
And kids, I will deny saying this, but the old man is right 99.9999% of the time.
Hey Daddy - for this Father’s Day, I am giving you something that you have always wanted - a non question day!
Enjoy it ‘cause Monday is tomorrow!
And to my brother, Glen, who is the dad of my red headed niece, Bruce, who is the dad of my nieces, Jessica and Bailey, my uncles, Jerry and Troy, and cousins, Pat, Kevin and Jack, Dr. Lopez, Daniel, Bro. Hugh, Bryan, Michael, Mr. George, Mr. Steve, Mr. Parker, R.C., Monte, Mr. Ralph, and all of the other father figures in my life, thanks! Have a great Father’s Day, you deserve it!
Becky Holland is the news and education editor of the Americus Times-Recorder and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 924-2751.
Becky Holland is the news and education editor of the Americus Times-Recorder and can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 229-924-2751