In What Ways Did Your Father Influence Your Life?
Posted June 13, 2008, 10:45 am
Growing Bolder asks leaders, thinkers, writers, life coaches, entertainers and role models to weigh in on issues affecting our lives.
Our question is: In What Ways Did Your Father Influence Your Life?
In looking forward to this Sunday, June 20th, I'm pleased to share this message. If you invest time in reading it, I trust you will be enriched....and may choose to share.
Father’s Day might be misnamed….I vote for Dad’s Day.
I believe there’s a big difference between being a Father and being a Dad. The former is biological, the latter emotional. Fathering is an act of nature; being a Dad is all nurture. It's certainly much easier to become a father than to commit to becoming a Dad.
Every child needs a Dad who may or might not be his or her biological father. A Dad is someone who’s there when a child needs him most, in good times and bad, when guidance and the gifts of an open ear and caring heart are most important.
Dads come in all ages and stages of life. Grandfathers and uncles, cousins and big brothers, family friends, teachers, clergy, coaches and mentors, and even commanding officers can play the role of Dad at critical moments in a young person's life.
Foster and adoptive Dads are among the most special people because their gifts are the most timely in the life of a child. Opening our doors and hearts to children whose needs are great and emotions fragile takes a certain blend of kindness and leadership. How many of us have the courage and commitment to accept another’s child as our own?
I consider myself a Dad because from day one….actually minute one…..our sons’ presence has been something special and even sacred to me. I don’t mean to boast, but I believe that I’ve acquired that essential trait of positive parenting…..to become someone who learns how to love from our children and who loves them back unconditionally.
As an advocate, I often ask questions which bring attention to a cause and spark conversation to seek solutions. Advocates give voice to critical issues and attract partners for progress.
I’ve come to believe that the absence of Dads in the lives of children, either physically or emotionally, is one of the most obvious factors in contributing to childhood stress.
While it's obvious that most Moms are heroic and provide a phenomenal level of care, loving support, and family leadership, I have learned that children need more than one primary care-giver. In studying the family for more than 30-years, I'm convinced that when a child is not afforded the advantage of a loving and caring male model, problems are more likely. Call me a traditionalist, but I think children live what they learn, and who among us has not benefited from the generous gift of male guidance?
I certainly do not advocate putting children in peril if a parent is dangerous or their influence detrimental to the child’s health and safety. But given the reality that child rearing is at its best a team sport, let’s develop a consensus to empower Dads, support Dads, and when necessary, recruit Dads to be there for children who need them.
The impact of positive parental guidance cannot be overstated. In Proverbs Chapter XXII, Verse 6 we read......"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Shared below is my own Dad's story…….one that I am pleased to give you as a gift.
My Dad was 60 when I was born. Not only was he the oldest Dad on the block, he was older than all of my friends' grandfathers. He was also a blind man having lost his sight in his early 50's. After a few days of blurred vision, he became totally blind. The doctors guessed it was vascular, perhaps an aneurysm on the optic nerve.
It's said that when one sense goes the others perk up a bit. Well, eight years after my Dad went blind, I came along! Some things in life don't require good vision!
Growing up with a blind Dad wasn't easy. Sometimes his blindness frightened me. On occasion I would play blind, walking through a room with my eyes tightly shut feeling my way with outstretched arms and walking in a halting gait wondering how my Dad managed to move around with such effortless grace.
Beginning at age 9, it was my responsibility to read for my Dad - mostly newspaper columns, editorials and letters from his friends. Walter Cronkite was his TV news anchor; I read the opinions.
When I read for him he listened to me struggle through the tough words with patience…. I had to spell out a few. But I'll never forget the light that would shine from his blind eyes when I got to a phrase in an article or friend's letter that moved him - a new fact or a fresh angle on an issue of concern. When that light went on, I knew I was doing a good job. He couldn't see my smile but I knew he sensed it.
My Dad never went to school one day in his life. He was an immigrant who came to this country at the turn of the century to escape the tyranny of forced "conscription" in the Russian Czarist Army. The teenage boys gathered from the shtetles were not really being recruited or given uniforms.....they were forced to run through the woods, used as human target practice, to hone the skills of the sharpshooters.
Those few who survived feigned death, crawled back to the village to warn the others, like my father, to run away and escape to the west. He and a friend, Benny, left their families at age 14, working their way through Poland over a three-year period to save enough to board a ship in Danzig (now Gdansk) for the New World...for survival and to be free.
My Dad spoke five languages, and mastered Braille, but was versed in the language of politics the best. He believed it was politics that forced those young kids to run through the woods as human prey, and it was politics and policies that needed to be influenced at every stage of his life.
My Dad never hesitated to share his personal stories and his generation's history. Most of my knowledge of the 20th Century is rooted in his accounts of life's struggles, successes, and failures.
As I contemplate Dad's Day I think of how different my childhood would have been if I had a different father....One who was not blind, who could play catch, or take me to a movie, or compliment my drawings. Yet, I know I was enriched by being with a wise old man, helping to narrate his life's events. For as long as I can remember, I saw for two people. That was both an obligation, and an opportunity.
Every memory is a subjective vision of the past. All of us recall our childhoods with a blend of joy and regret. The pleasure was balanced with pain.
Some of us never really knew our fathers - lost to war, alcohol, or abandonment. Some feared their father's anger or coldness but deeply respected his hard work and dedication to family. Some men live up to what's expected of them, others stumble, yet few do not try to do their best.
I think of Dad's Day - now 35-plus years after my Dad's death - as a chance to cherish the gifts he gave me that had no wrapping paper. I believe his influence lives in the work I do, my appreciation of others' challenges, and the relationship I have built with my own two sons who never got to meet the old guy with the grey beard and bright, shining eyes.
I implore you think of the life lessons we've learned - good or bad - from our fathers. Let's honor them by emulating the good, overcoming the bad, and sending a signal to our children, in both word and action, that they are valued.
One of the most significant ways to heed the commandment "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother" is to make a contribution in our parents' name to a charity which reflects the values we've learned from those who paved our paths. Or volunteer to read to a child, visit a lonely elder, or send a note to a long-lost friend. What better honor than to give of ourselves in the name of those who gave so much to us?
About Jack Levine
One of the most dedicated and successful child advocates in Florida history, Jack was struck by the lack of attention focused on people of age. As a result, he founded 4Generations Institute, dedicated to bringing the generations together. He previously served as President of Voices for Florida's Children for 25 years. Jack's expertise is in developing and delivering messages to the media, public officials, and a diverse network of advocates on the value of preventive investments in children, parent leadership, grandparent activism, and dignified services for elders.
My father died when I
was six weeks old. I never knew him. This actually bothered me more
than anyone knows. My father did not believe in insurance, intense poverty
ensued for years to come. To men out there that think they are in charge of
only supporting your children you are just so wrong. My father was a self
taught person, an excellent photographer, and an exceptional builder. I found a
complete set of blue prints in my mom's attic, after she died. He
designed and built the first house they ever lived in, from the ground up.
The reason I am telling you this is because of the following: My sister is a
great photographer. There is something about the way she can capture life
in people's faces, that some people have and others don't. She has it. When I
stopped singing, I went to work for an architectural firm. I have a natural
talent for it. I could read blue prints from day one. I ended up running
multi-million dollar projects (commercial interiors) There is no other explanation, other than that talent came from my father. There are certain strengths that I
have, that my mother never did. People always say that a father is so important
to a boy. I think a father is so important to a girl. I have always felt
the void that not knowing him has created. I really would have loved a
chance to meet him. I think that we must be a great deal alike. Fathers give so much more than
money. If they are good dads they really give you
insight into men. To my father, his family was
everything. Every time I see a picture of him, I just wonder what he was
like. He was an extremely handsome man too, with too many interests to get
About Mary Weiss
Mary Weiss was the legendary lead singer of the Shangri-Las, one of the greatest girl groups of the '60s. She recorded major hits like Leader of the Pack, while she was just a teen. The group disbanded in '69 and Mary dropped out of the music business altogether. But now she's back and bolder than ever. Her new album, Dangerous Game, has a distinct '60s influence tempered by the experiences of a lifetime.
My father had to have the worst job in the world; a coal miner. As a child growing up, I remember him coming home from work black as the coal he mined all day. It was a terrible job. He would often work in a mine with water up to his knees, his frame bent because of the low height of the mine shaft. Ironically, he moved to the US from Italy in the hope of finding a better life. But my Dad set an unshakable work ethic in his children. No matter what the job, he would say, always do your best. Always be dependable. Always help others. His main objective in life was to ensure that his children would be educated so they would not have to live the life he lived. He was very successful in his goal, as all four of his children lead very successful lives. Another lesson learned, be goal oriented and don't quit until you succeed. I've been an RSVP director for 29 wonderful years and feel I have been successful because of my father's influence on my life.
About Joan Hansen
Joan Hansen is on the front lines of social change. She is the director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in Orange County, Fla. She helps people over the age of 55 become involved in the community through volunteer work. She is a actively involved in the Amachi program and actually volunteers as a mentor. After the untimely passing of her daughter, Joan is raising her granddaughter Ashley. She is facing that challenge with love and passion and has traveled with Ashley all over the world!
My father played baseball at the University of Michigan and then for the Chicago Cubs after college. He was farmed out to the Charleston (WV) Senators in the 30's where he met and married my mother. She ultimately decided that since he was educated that he should get a real job. I was the first born and I have one younger sister. He desperately wanted a son, but took me under his wing and taught me how to pitch. I vividly recall having to throw out three batters before dinner in the evening. He coached in his spare time and I went along--sometimes pitching batting practice, snatching bats and later, keeping score. I took to sports at an early age and majored in physical education in undergraduate school because of his influence--I believe he always wanted to be a coach. At one point I switched into Chemistry and I when I called home thinking he would be pleased, he was disappointed. I did graduate in physical education, but learned during the student teaching phase that I didn't like working with junior or senior high children, so I did a master's degree in physical education and taught at the college level while I took extra science courses so that I could return to graduate school in medical science. I believe at that point he wanted me to go to medical school, but the tuition in those days was over $300 per semester and graduate school was free because of the funds available for science education in the 60's. I have always loved sports, but didn't get back into it until after his death. I began running when I was about 40--to lose weight and get into shape. It was road racing that got me into a training mode. I often think about him and how proud he would have been of my accomplishments in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon. I miss him still. I am sure I got my competitive spirit from him.
About Patricia Bond
Patricia Bond is a multi-sport athlete who has been involved in the Senior Games for many years and thrives on the competition. She won 8 gold medals in 2007 Games in the 65-69 age group. She is the Chair of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee of Manatee County and enjoys photography.
My father, novelist,
screenwriter, and one of the main scribes for the long-running radio classic,
ONE MAN'S FAMILY, was an enormous influence in my life---most probably
because he exclaimed when I was about twelve years old and had just won a Seventh Grade writing contest, "You know, honey, you can write! You've
definitely got the Ware writing gene!" This was long before the
genetic code had been cracked, but his confidence in me expressed so
spontaneously that day has echoed throughout my life, though he passed away
when I was only twenty-four. His other great bit of advice was about being a true professional. "Do the task that's asked, on time, and to the
best of your ability. No excuses. Always deliver." He was a
wonderfully witty guy, even at the end. From his hospital bed, he looked me in
the eye and said, "Well, hey, Ciji....look at it this way: nobody
ever gets outta here alive!" He's been gone some four decades, but
every Father's Day, I miss him like mad. He adored and respected my
mother and thought women could do anything they set their mind to. How's that for
a guy born in 1903?
About Ciji Ware
Ciji Ware has been a well-known radio and tv reporter and commentator in Los Angeles for more than twenty five years. She was the first female graduate of Harvard University to serve as president of the university's worldwide Alumni Association. Her numerous awards include an Emmy and a Dupont for her television work, a Silver Gavel for magazine journalism, and a Best Fictionalized Biography Award from Romantic Times magazine. She's written five historical novels in addition to her nonfiction works, Sharing Parenthood After Divorce and Rightsizing Your Life.
At first I thought I had nothing to say on Fathers, then after pondering it for a few moments I realized that I do indeed have a lot to say on Fathers, especially my own and how he did or did not influence my upbringing. You see I was brought up in the 40, 50's. Having been born in Ireland in 1944. My dad was never around, he was away in the British Army and when he did come home for a week or two at a time, the thing I remember most is that my Mom would soon have another child. Of course I had no idea where kids came from other than the cabbage patch, and I believed this until I was 15 or 16. So I grew up entirely without a father. I never remember anytime whatsoever in my childhood that my father was there for us. I was one of 14 children. He never took us to a park, never took a bus ride with us, never played with us, never took us for a walk, never gave any affection, in fact, Irish men were not very good as fathers in those days. Consequently most Irish children grew up with a fierce desire to escape and forge their own identities when they reached teen years. I hope today that Irish fathers are a much better breed. Then, they simply did not know how to give affection, and that also reflects their own upbringing. The only thing they knew was violence. People today might argue that I am wrong, but I can tell you categorically that every child on my street was beaten almost daily by their father (and mother too). So my memories of my father is not pleasant and perhaps I should stop thinking of it now as I get really angry that he treated us like we should never have been born. My memories of my father is constant beatings with whatever was to hand, belt, boot or cane. A simple act of getting out of bed and going to the bathroom would warrant a kick down the stairs followed by the buckle of the belt. So in turn I thought a father was not important in a child's life and went on to bring up my son on my own when I had a child and was widowed at the age of 22.. I was of the thinking that my father did nothing for me so therefore my son does not need a father to guide him. I would be a mother and father. I held this opinion for years and my son never had a male mentor to look up to. Perhaps this is why he never married and did not settle down with anyone until he reached the age of 40. Now my son is a father himself and it would be very had to find a better father. He realizes that it is vitally important that his son and daughter have an adoring, nurturing, loving, playful father. It amazes me to know he is such a wonderful father, never having had one himself. So I guess I did a good job after all, and he must have learned something right from me. So fathers can be good and some can be bad. If you had a good one you were blessed. As for myself, I survived, achieved many things on my own and have only myself to thank.
About Iris Davis
Iris Davis always loved to work out, but in her 40's an illness left her paralyzed. Doctors told her she'd be in a wheelchair for life. Iris had other plans. She went back to the gym, and could barely lift a quarter pound. Two years later she was out of the wheelchair, and at the age of 50 she entered her first bodybuilding contest. She won nine championship titles, but got national attention when at the age of 62, the 5"1' 100 pound grandmother, wrestled down an armed assailant who was fleeing police. Today she is a National Physique Committee judge and a personal trainer.
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