Much of what we know, enjoy, and appreciate can be traced back to our dads. Would you not agree?
It was President Lyndon B. Johnson who issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day in 1966. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
The origin of Father's Day can be traced back to the late 1890s. It was a windy March night. A grief-stricken father sat in the front room of his farmhouse in the rolling hills of the Big Bend River near Spokane, Wash. Near him were his five small sons and one daughter. They had earlier in the day laid their mother to rest. At this moment, William Jackson Smart became both mother and father to these six children. Years later, his daughter, Sonora, now grown to womanhood, became Mrs. John Bruce Smart Dodd and was the driving force behind establishing Father's Day. Mrs. Dodd attended a Mother's Day service one Sunday and heard the minister praising the mothers of the world. Intuitively, she thought of her father, the only mother she remembered. She asked herself, "Why only Mother's Day? Why not Father's Day?" She initially suggested June 5, her father's birthday, to the pastor. However, the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June and the first celebration was in Spokane on June 19, 1910. It took years for the idea to take hold in the U.S., as some perceived it as a commercial promotion to replicate the commercial success of Mother's Day.
Recently I was looking through a box of cards from my parents' home, and I discovered a Father's Day card my mom had sent to my dad in 1966. Inside was a clipping from the National Father's Day Committee listing 10 guideposts for a safe and better world, as well as a thought for a happy and peaceful family life.
The wise father:
encourages a respect for other nations; an understanding of other people
gives this child confidence through the safety of a happy home
teaches his child that he is not better than others, despite many differences
is quick to offer a helping hand in time of trouble
schools his child in good sportsmanship and fair play - win, lose, or draw
gains respect and love of his child not by force but through companionship and wisdom
teaches his child the importance of good citizenship, by his own activity in community affairs
instills in his child a respect for law and order
teaches his child that intolerance and ignorance are alien to a world of peace
through spiritual guidance, teaches his child that greatness and goodness go hand in hand.
These are worth repeating this Father's Day. Now you know the importance that family cards stored in a shoebox can have!
A favorite of Dad's
An Arctic Emerald Pie recipe was given to me by our Underwood neighbor, Mrs. Duke Welk. She and her husband enjoyed traveling, and it is a recipe she picked up when visiting the South. It is a spot-on dessert to make and serve when the heat of summer can be pressing and downright unfriendly. You will find the lime juice in this pie to be most inspirational. As this nippy, hospitable fusion communicates with your taste buds, it will cool and calm you to the point where you will be able to sit back in an unruffled nature and smirk at the dog days of summer.
My dad's very favorite pie is my mother's apple pie. Next in line would be lemon meringue, and on hot summer days, this pie slides into third very easily. I guess with apple on first, lemon on second, lime on third, the only thing to do is send cranberry to the bat. You can bet it would be a grand slam home run! The blessing of my mother inviting her sons to cook at home base endorsed new recipes, and this one is a sure hit!
As I reflect on the many things my dad taught me, I am forever grateful. I learned early on there is always gentleness with strength. As a child, I mimicked many of my dad's traits. He wore blue-striped overalls, and so did I. He loved oysters - so, therefore, I love oysters. I credit my ability to like most foods because my dad did.
My dad is not one to go around reciting verses from the Bible; however, he shared with me the story when Jesus and His disciples came upon a woman who was about to be stoned. Jesus said, "Let him who is without sin among you cast the first stone." One by one those who would have stoned her went away. Need I say more?
My dad realized early on that I was not going to be an electrician like him. This was revealed when I was riding along with him on service calls in his 1949 sky blue Chevy panel service truck, which displayed the words "Underwood Electric" in golden yellow script outlined in burgundy on the doors. This truck had a great lighted radio and I can recall times sitting next to him and listening to the music and saying, "Dad, if you try really hard, you can see the performers dancing and singing in this lighted radio." He went right along with it.
When I wanted to start a rose garden, he showed up with a Queen Elizabeth rose bush - not surprising as pink was one of his favorite colors. He always answered any questions I asked him about his parents. He took the time to show me the stucco houses in Turtle Lake that his Uncle Halvor fashioned because he knew I would be interested.
I think all children like to recall physical aspects of their dad. For me, the strength of his muscled arms stands out, and the care he took of his hair. He never went anywhere without a comb. He taught me that life is hard, but it's harder if you don't show up with your hair combed and hands washed! I know that some of his red and curly hair was quickly straightened and lightened when he was teaching me to drive his orange clutch Chevy pickup - especially when I mistook the clutch pedal for the brake pedal.
My relationship with my dad from very early on focused on his actions, and certainly his interests. He emphasized the need to be a good citizen, and this starts by reading the newspaper, thinking and participating in one's world. I could daydream, drop things, snoop, be shy, act stubborn - and yet these were the least of my transgressions. He overlooked them and always smiled as I took a sincere interest in cooking. My dad enjoyed antiques, bottles, glassware, old telephones, crocks, insulators, milk bottles and scales. For me this was an awakening joy in the hunt filled with creative expression and knowledge. He took the time to explain to me why he quit smoking, and I should never start and then caught me in the act. His disappointment caused me to never light up again.
I would be a chump to say that Dad and I never disagreed. But early on in my youth, we had a talk and made this simple agreement in my freshman year in college. When he was upset with something I had done, I gave him my attention and he did the same for me. It was a decree between us that brought much understanding and giving.
I have seen my dad weep twice: first when his dad died at age 101, and second when my mother became very ill. A father crying before his grown son is the doorway of understanding. In those brief and silhouetted moments, my dad genuinely expressed a lifetime of feelings and care. For a transitory time, the roles had reversed. Images of the man who could easily bend copper wire and even pipe with his bare hands, who with the intensity of his voice could assemble five redhead, lively sons, was now bequeathing the eminent trophy of strength - rolling tears.
Those days of such vivid lessons in actions and thoughts are well behind both of us. So is the working in the laundromat, gardening, attending auction sales, gathering apples from his trees, chatting about his high school classmates, trips together, helping hang backgrounds at the studio and evening visits with his favorite farm girl, my wife Jan. Yet these recollections of my dad I cherish and reflect back upon regularly.
My communication currently with Dad continues through a smile, words while brushing his hair, a tap on his shoulder, a squeeze of his hand, or a mini wink of his eye. As he wrestles with Alzheimer's disease, and its gripping power, I see my dad changing. Yet there are still moments of learning. My dad is a friend who shares a smile, a tear, a hand and the freedom to be me. And for that I say, "Happy Father's Day, Dad!"A Father's Day tribute to a great dad