On Fathers

The Linn brothers have written that our image of God is often skewed through the realities of our Dads.

I first became a father at age 24 when our eldest Matthew was born. I had no clue as to how to be a Dad. As most of us do, I looked at my own Dad.

Like most fathers, mine was flawed. He had a volatile temper (although he never laid a hand on me). Like most men of his era, he was not affectionate because “men don’t kiss. They shake hands.” And he worked a lot.

As far as faith goes, his seems to have been dominated by guilt, not uncommon among Catholics then and now. As he would say after his second stroke, “I think I’m being punished for my sins.” How he dealt with my sisters’ deaths I don’t know. He never talked about it. I never actually saw him cry until my mother died.

As time passed, though, his lessons became more apparent. He had a strong commitment to family and in time I came to see that was why he worked so much. To provide opportunity for me and my brother. I came to see that he was generous. That he was a good and loyal friend. That he saw life as hard but manageable through family. As he often said in times of trouble, “we’re all in this together”.

In Studs Terkel’s Working. Terkel spends a good deal of time with a steel worker. Like my father, this man had strong feelings about family. His words resonate:

“When I see some sharp young guy walking down the street in a tie, I’m lookin’ at my kid. I want my kid to be an effete snob. I want him to be able to read Walt Whitman and be proud of it…Yeah, if you can’t improve yourself, you improve your posterity. Otherwise life ain’t worth livin’. You know, I don’t think the first caveman went over the hill to see what was on the other side. He went there so he could get his son out of the cave!”

I see now that my Dad worked hard to get me and my brother “out of the cave”. I understand that and appreciate it. I want the same for my own sons and daughter.

Reflection:  Listen to this piece from the musical version of Working. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMHyxFDBN8k

For better or worse, what impact has your Dad or father figures had on your own journey?