Being a father is a complicated business.
I have had a father for 57 years; and I have been one for nearly twenty.
What I learned from the get-go is that there is no book – no manual – to tell a father (or a mother, for that matter) how to do the job right. The baby and you come home from the hospital, and then it hits you: “Now what?”
These days, myriad books, videos, and websites are around to help and educate new parents; but back in 1959, when I was born, there were no such resources. Mothers just coped and ad-libbed, while dads went back to the office. There was nothing like the now-accepted idea that parenting should be a shared and mutually supporting activity. Mum nurtured and raised the kids, while Dad provided.
My father was a troubled man, which is something I didn’t really figure out until much later in life. By my 10th birthday, he was just 17 years off the battlefields of Korea where he had seen and done things nobody should see and do. He was a lieutenant in Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry – the worst position you can imagine: the first to lead an assault; the courageous leader; the first willing to die. He ended up being terribly wounded. Though a resolute pacifist, I was always (and remain) proud of my dad’s service.
My dad’s dad, my grandfather, was a surgeon in the First War, which caused in him terrible emotional turmoil. All of my uncles (spare one) were also soldiers, and each adjusted in their separate ways.
My father had a deeply tender side. He sang me to sleep, taught me how to fish, how to tie a knot, how to be a brave and honourable man. He was a highly distinguished and respected lawyer and remains an independent scholar of uncommon dedication and moral focus. Of that, too, I am proud.
Fathers’s Day is a day not to judge, but to acknowledge. Sometime today, my own kids will phone and, ignoring for the moment my many idiocies and failures, say that they love me.