Profiles in Fatherhood on Father’s Day
By Guy Shepherd

News Alert: It turns out that the presence of a father in a home matters a lot. Good news: it does not require a lot. Just one thing: being there.

Profiles in Fatherhood on Father’s Day

News Alert: It turns out that the presence of a father in a home matters a lot.

And the good news, fellas, is that we don’t need to do that much to make a huge difference in the life prospects for our children. Just being “present”—not necessarily the gold standard that your family deserves—dramatically improves the life outcomes for your kids.

How do we know this? The data are loud and clear. Not being under the same roof jeopardizes your kid’s health and welfare.

All of us—children, mothers, fathers, and society—are best served by Love, Honor, Until Death Do Us Part  marriages and families.

This is not what a divorced dad wants to hear on Father’s Day. Sorry, buddy, but this is a hard day to be a dad in your circumstances. As the parent on the outside looking in, you know that your absence from the house is hard on your kids.

Also, ladies—mothers— it should be noted that you open your homes to a Serengeti-level of risk when you serve walking papers to a lackluster but functionally serviceable guy. Half of marriages fail. At least half of that number is salvageable.

All of us—children, mothers, fathers, and society—are best served by Love, Honor, Until Death Do Us Part marriages and families.

Let’s ponder a few fathers who followed that example.

First is Uncle Steve. Steve was in early fifties when he died of a heart attack. I enjoyed him at all levels. We understood one another to the core. His passing was tough. His wife is a beauty who loved her man, warts and all—but particularly the warts—and so did his kids.

I’m celebrating him today because Steve is a central-casting example of a Planned Man. Steve was a great father, husband, and friend. He died a few decades before his expected time. Yet, when death—that thief—took him away, everyone he loved was taken care of. Not just financially, which he had ensured, and we all should strive to do. (And if you need to catch up in that area, Planned Manswers is a good place to start.) More importantly, he imprinted himself—his mind, heart, and soulful wit—on those blessed to have known and loved him.

Uncle Steve did not mind repeating himself. Every year he would assemble his kids and mine and go over the recipe to make the American Dream real. “Kids, come around and listen to your fathers talk at you. It’s not easy to get to where your dad and I are. But you need not be poor. The middle class is for anyone who follows this recipe: Go to high school, learn something while you are there, and graduate. Go to college or learn a trade. Get a job and work hard. Fall in love, get married, and have kids.  The order of this recipe is everything.  Bringing a life into this world while in high school or college, or before marriage, is an American Dream killer.”

Bringing a life into this world while in high school or college, or before marriage, is an American Dream killer.

Another father to celebrate today is my father-in-law—a gray-haired fox of a Planned Man. Like many great Americans, he came to the United States on his honeymoon, liking it so much that he determined to stay, and he went on to pursue and attain the American Dream. He worked hard and provided.

I’m bringing him up today, as my Patron Saint of the Marital Vows—which are also the Fatherly Vows. His example is of standout excellence in managing life’s bad times. At the moment of his hard-earned retirement, the love of his life discovered that she had ALS—one of the worse ways to die. The beauty of his manly and noble performance under this sorrow cannot be captured in this space. He never faltered. It was never about him. His wife— his love—was suffering. He loved her fully and completely until she parted, and he never uttered a woe-is-me sentiment during the ordeal or after. His excellence was not lost on his daughter, or on his daughter’s husband. Bravo to this living GOAT.

Lastly, I want to celebrate the virtue of manly courage. Parents love their children instinctively. A mother and father will sacrifice their lives for their own flesh and blood. To put it all on the line for your own is natural. To put it on the line for a neighbor or stranger, however, is something else entirely.

My buddy J’s father Bob lived and died a manly man’s life. He raised five kids. He was not afraid of death. Life and death were Bob’s occupations. He owned a funeral home and was a fireman. He was a man of both sides of fate’s coin.

Bob was living the retired life on the beach in Florida. He was catching some rays a day before he was going to fly to Rhode Island, having finagled an invite into the delivery room to watch the birth of his granddaughter. He had not seen the birth of his own.

The idyll was interrupted by a call for help. A riptide had pulled two swimmers out to sea. The first in the water was 64-year-old Bob. He swam out with the current, then back against it, towing a woman back to shore. Hurray! A good day’s work as a retired superhero.

But wait. No else had followed him into the water—and meantime, the woman’s husband was losing his battle against the riptide. So back out our hero swam, returning with another life saved.

He spoke to one of the many onlookers as he exited the riotous ocean, acknowledging that it was the hardest thing he ever had done.  Bob walked over to his chaise lounge, laying down, and died of a heart attack.  A tragedy, yes—but what a noble tragedy, and what a heroic way to leave this world.

The greatness of these men, these fathers, is in all of us. All we must do is rise up to it.

Happy Father’s Day to us all.  I miss you Dad.

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