THE HONORABLE DAD
When I was pregnant the second time, I craved ham sandwiches. And, unlike my normal habits, I ate them in the middle of the night. I never did before, nor do I now, get up and eat in the middle of the night.
But I did then.
Getting up and going downstairs to the kitchen in the middle of the night was a taxing effort as my pregnancy progressed. Preparing the ham sandwich was another effort.
In his usual, unique thoughtful style, my husband found a way to take away all the work, and make it sheer enjoyment: he fixed a ham sandwich for his lunch the next day, and an extra one for me. Then, since the springtime temperatures at night were cool but not freezing, he opened our bedroom window and placed the sandwich (in a baggie) in the window between the screen and the glass. He closed it, thus creating a refrigerator for the sandwich. All I had to do was get up and go to the window to get my sandwich.
And I did. And I loved it. And I loved him for it.
And our son still loves ham sandwiches.
Being pregnant is sometimes sheer joy, but often times it is sheer misery. I experienced both. My husband did whatever things—both small and large—that he could to turn the misery to joy, or at least to alleviate some of it.
When we were dating, I had a built-in barometer to assess his potential fitness as a future reproductive match for me: he already had a son. I liked what I saw, so I deemed him acceptable—if not excellent—as a match.
He was then, and continues to be an honorable—and excellent–dad.
I thought this picture was taken on Father’s Day, but given my long sleeves and long pants (right), I think perhaps it was Dad’s birthday in March. Suzanne is on his lap, Gail is in the back.
So too was our dad. He was an honorable dad, man, husband and human. He was fair and just. He spoke his mind, which were always words of wisdom. He was respected by all, and he knew not a stranger. For all of this, I am forever grateful.
I know that not every dad is worthy of this honor. I know there are many fathers—and mothers too—who are not honorable. Who do not deserve to be a parent to their beautiful and innocent children. Who do not treat their children with love, respect, caring kindness and tenderness. Who did not want to be parents, but found themselves in that position.
There are many mysteries in life, and that is one of them. How such gifts in the form of children are given to parents who are not honorable. I don’t have an answer, and I don’t want to bring you—or me—down any further by discussing it.
Instead, simply pray for the children, and pray that future potential parents are somehow better chosen. And if you are a parent, keep being the best parent you can be.
If you have ever paid attention to the composition of a pasture full of cattle (I’m a farm girl, remember, so bear with me here), you will notice an imbalance between males and females. In order to reproduce cattle, farmers and ranchers will place the heifers—adult female cattle—in a pasture with a bull—the male. But there is only one bull for multiple heifers. It only takes one bull. More than one would cause disastrous conflicts between the bulls, but I digress…
This was the scene at the edge of our backyard yesterday. The cows come home to our home every once in awhile.
In the human animal kingdom, males can reproduce hundreds, if not thousands of times in their adult lives. Females, who have approximately 30 fertile years, can reproduce at a maximum of about once per year. Thirty is a generous estimate, but the world record for most babies delivered is 67, in 27 pregnancies with all of them being multiple births. I could not find a statistic for most births to one woman without multiples. Most women—myself included—strive to keep it in the single digits. In 2015 in the United States, the average birth per woman was 1.84.
I have a point here: females have a much higher physical stake in the reproduction process. One cycle of reproduction, from fertilization to potential repeat fertilization, is about one year. That is, if everything goes like clockwork. The physical toll is increasingly measurable with each successive pregnancy. For the male, there essentially is no physical toll.
Call it instinct, call it pure motherly love, but there is a force that nearly every mother feels for her child. If she is the biological mother, she has carried it within her for approximately nine months, then she endures otherworldly and possibly excruciating pain to give birth.
This is not to take away from the love a father feels. I am simply stating that he does not experience the same physical and hormonal phenomena that a woman does.
Sadly, there are too many stories of women who choose not to stay with their offspring. If we are to call it instinct, then perhaps this would never happen. Even in the animal kingdom—I have seen it on the farm—mothers sometimes abandon their young.
There are many stories of fathers leaving their children as well. In the face of divorce or desertion, too many fathers simply walk away.
But I also know of many fathers who lost their children’s mother to divorce or desertion, and remained the only present, active loving parent. Sadly, I know a few who lost their children’s mother to death, and the love and devotion they show to their children cannot be exceeded by any degree of motherly love I have ever witnessed.
Many fathers have stepped up to become a father to children that were placed in their lives through circumstance instead of through birth. Any father—or mother—who takes on children and raises them as their own deserves a special place in heaven—as well as on earth.
My point is this: fathers can more easily walk away, and they more frequently do. But most often they don’t, and those fathers are the ones we are honoring today.
Both Gail and Suzanne were single mothers for a period of time. I bow down to each of them; I never had to face that challenge. Gail told me today that her oldest daughter wishes her a Happy Father’s Day each year, as well as Happy Mother’s Day. She realizes now that she was both mother and father to her for a long time. Many parents have to be both, and they deserve recognition every day of the year.
Speaking of the animal kingdom, I have long had a fascination with two different species: in college, I collected penguins. Not so much now, but they still intrigue me.
I did not know this fact then: the male emperor penguin incubates the egg by sitting on it for two months. He cannot leave. Even when the mother returns home late from the sea, the male has to feed the chick, even if he hasn’t eaten for months. If you want your heart warmed but also perhaps ripped out by a true story from the animal kingdom, watch the documentary March of the Penguins. It details this very phenomenon.
No wonder I consider penguins cool creatures—as well as another creature:
Instead of the female, the male seahorse—as well as several other related species—gives birth. They carry the young—up to 1500 eggs– in a pouch for 9-45 days, then deliver them into the water. Again, I felt an affinity for this species long before I knew the male did the hard work. I spoke of this admiration in Lessons From My Sister—And the Sea Creatures (July 30th). They are so amazing to me.
Of course, it’s not like I think they are so cool that I would get a tattoo of one or anything like that…no, never.
Of course, I miss my dad today. I cannot not feel the pain more today. But I am celebrating. I have a lot to celebrate with my children and their father, as well as my in-laws, and we did just that today. We couldn’t all be together today, but this picture from last Christmas is my husband’s entire brood:
My memories of Father’s Day as a child usually involve the harvest field, because that is typically where he was. I made my annual pilgrimage to the family wheat fields yesterday for a truck and combine ride with my brothers, which will be highlighted in a future blog soon.
I felt my dad there, too.
My heart breaks for anyone who is struggling through this day because it is their first Father’s Day without their father, and I am thinking of more people than I care to mention here, but they know who they are.
He is still with you, and always will be.
These flags were flying along the highway on my way home from the farm yesterday. I don’t know the family who lives there, but I know of them. My heart was warmed, and it was already 99 degrees outside.
HAPPY FATHER’S DAY