Reasons & Remarks – Tuesdays With Dad

Forgoing traditional Father’s Day gifts to focus on making time together the greatest gift

Mom died last August, so Dad has been pretty lonely. To keep him company, I push my wheelchair more than a mile to his home every Tuesday afternoon.

I know if you’re my age, you’re probably reminded of the New York Times best-seller Tuesdays with Morrie. However, unlike the book, Dad doesn’t teach me any of life’s greatest lessons, but I do enjoy listening to his stories while I drink his beer.

Dad is 85 years old, so with the average life expectancy in the United States at 76 years, I should consider myself lucky to have this opportunity to spend so much time with him.  

Father’s Day falls on June 16 this year. Under normal circumstances, Dad couldn’t care less about a holiday to celebrate his role as our father, nor did he ever want us to go to the trouble of buying a gift or giving him a card. However, with this being the first Father’s Day without Mom, Dad surprised me when he asked if he could spend time with me and my children.

Growing up, I always considered Father’s Day as a consolation prize for dads. I mean, Mother’s Day is in May, and we always treated Mom like she was queen for the day while showering her with gifts, cards and kindness.  

But Father’s Day is celebrated just a few weeks later and with little fanfare, as if we feel guilty and don’t want Dad to feel left out. I ask myself, “Why bother? Dad just wants to be alone and watch golf on his television. Does Hallmark need to sell more cards, and does Dad really need another cigar?” After a little research on the history of Father’s Day, I found my cynical assumptions weren’t far from the truth.

Father’s Day was the idea of Sonora Smart Dodd. She was inspired by a sermon at her church in 1909 that explained the incredible series of events that led to the establishment of Mother’s Day. With strong roots tied to the children and mothers who survived the Civil War, Dodd believed that fathers also needed to be honored for their efforts during the war. After all, Dodd’s father, a Civil War veteran, was a single parent who raised his six children following his wife’s death.

Dodd’s idea of honoring fathers was seen as a noble cause, but it didn’t get much traction at first. However, American-style capitalism went into effect, as Hallmark began printing Father’s Day cards by the 1920s.

In the 1930s, Dodd’s advocacy for the celebration of dads began to receive support from manufacturers of ties, cigars and men’s clothing retailers. Matter of fact, any trade group that could benefit from such a holiday jumped on board. Unfortunately, Congress repeatedly defeated the idea of Father’s Day, perceiving the holiday as an attempt by merchants to duplicate the commercial successes of Mother’s Day.  

Nearly 60 years after Dodd came up with the idea of honoring fathers, then-U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson issued a presidential proclamation designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Yet, it didn’t become a national holiday until then-U.S. President Richard Nixon signed it into law April 24, 1972.

As my siblings and I grew up, Dad always served as our fearless leader — the strong patriarchal figure that we needed him to be. With age, his ability to continue in that role has diminished, and I see him becoming more dependent upon us.  

I know he hates the attention, but with Mom gone, I find myself spending more time with him. Sometimes sharing a beer with Dad every Tuesday can get a bit mundane; after all, he hasn’t come up with any new stories in a really long time. However, I know our visits have had a positive impact on Dad’s mental health, and that’s all I can hope for.  

I guess I should consider every Tuesday as Father’s Day, but I’ll forego the traditional gifts like ties and cigars. Maybe just making the effort to spend time with my father, politely listening to him repeating the same old stories while I drink his beer will be the greatest gift I can give to him.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.

As always, please let me know your thoughts at   n

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