Friday, at the gym, the woman scanning my card said “have a good Father’s Day weekend”. I’m not sure if her screen said I was a Dad, or if I just looked like I must have been one, sometime. I’m pretty sure she said the same thing to all adult males with wedding bands, or who just looked like Dads…
A couple of days earlier, 8th grade grade Grandson Ryan asked Grandma to hold off on Father’s Day until he returns from the bus trip he’s on to Washington DC. They’ll be back, tired, on Tuesday night. “Father’s Day” on spouse Cathy’s “side” will come sometime after Tuesday at our house. Shortly, my daughters will treat me to breakfast. It will be a busy day for us all. Daughter Joni said getting up as early as she’ll need to today is part of her Father’s Day gift to me.
Today, Sunday, June 16, called Father’s Day in the U.S., the Ryan and his cohort are visiting George and Martha Washington’s Mt. Vernon. Ah, George and Martha. George was a step-dad, and he and Martha didn’t have children together. Alternative kinds of families are as old as human history.
A month ago was Mother’s Day, and I had a post all prepared to send on the day. It is at the end of this post, unedited. I didn’t click send on it, then, because we were hosting several Moms and families, all relatives, and the day showed prospects of being more than a little complicated. (I’ll leave the reader to define “complicated”.)
(It was a complicated day, but all turned out fine.)
So it goes with these special days. We are not in the olden days, as if the olden days were idyllic, where there was, we like to remember, one biological Mom (“the Homemaker”) and one biological Dad (“the Breadwinner”), and all was happy, and “complicated” events and life circumstances were not much talked about, and left out of later family stories and histories, as if they didn’t exist.
So, what is a Dad, this Father’s Day, to me?
Somehow or other a dream on June 11, brought the confusion into some focus for me. I seldom remember dreams, and I’ve never done any analysis of them, but this particular one woke me up 4:30 or 5 a.m. and without embellishment, this is what I remember (I wrote a few words of notes to myself immediately when I woke).
For some reason, I was asked to say something to some kind of group, possibly a bunch of teachers I used to represent, and I started by talking about a Dad as a metaphorical “Rock” (you can define the symbolism of that for yourself).
It didn’t seem quite adequate, so I mentioned a Dad as an “Anchor”; and even that didn’t quite fit, so I added the descriptor of a “Balloon”.
And I woke up.
Later that day Grandson Ryan – not my biological grandson – played a baseball game that we watched; early the next day, we watched as he and his cohort got on the buses to go to Washington DC.
It occurred to me, looking back at my note pad, that maybe all three of those words, Rock, Anchor, Balloon, applied to my relationship with Ryan, and to others, and to relationships generally between people. Mostly, our relationships are (thankfully) not all intense 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are all different.
Maybe these words apply to all of we adult males who in one way or another are role models, support systems, and on and on for people who just happen to be in our space and for one reason or another are impacted by us, with the impact noticed, maybe years later. And the impact might not be necessarily positive at the time, but useful, nonetheless.)
So, wherever you happen to be in your life, men, Happy Father’s Day. And a belated Happy Mother’s Day to all of you women, whether or not you have biological children. In a sense we are all Dads, and Moms, to many….
Enjoy. Following is what I wrote back in May, but never published, on Mom’s.
(UNPUBLISHED) THOUGHTS FOR MOTHER’S DAY, MAY 12, 2013
Mother’s Day has a complicated history if one considers the comprehensive definition of “mother”.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day in the United States, it has only been a greeting card and flowers kind of event for at most about 100 years.
Today at our home, several mothers from Cathy’s family will e here – two daughters-in-law and a niece and, of course the “Queen Mother” herself (an inside joke with its own story!). Cathy invited the group over, and will be busy today, and I’ll do “as assigned”.
One of my daughters will be score keeping at a baseball game for her 11 year old’s baseball team at a tournament near here; my other daughter-who’s-a-Mom will likely be at some other event just across the river, likely with her husband, kids and in-laws. I’m not sure what my son and daughter-in-law in Denver area will be doing, but it will probably involve their daughter and her husband who live nearby.
Mother’s Day is a diverse day for us, and I would guess, for most Americans.
Both of our own Mom’s have long ago passed on: Cathy’s mother when Cathy was only 16; my mother when I was 41.
None of our constellation will be somewhere fishing, for now a many year complication of traditional Mother’s Day in Minnesota: fishing opener and Mother’s Day compete with each other.
Some families (and Mom’s) will be lucky and have the perfect day; others will not be so lucky. Such events have their own potentials for peril!
In my files is a collection of about 160 postcards (greeting cards) received by my Grandma and Grandpa in the first years after they moved to their new farm in North Dakota in 1905. These were all pre-formal Mother’s Day and speak for themselves.
Usually they were sister-to-sister affection and support, from time-to-time: on the occasion of a birth, for instance.
Two of those cards has always been interesting to me. They explain themselves:
(click to enlarge)
Being Mom is not always that idyllic!
Neither is being Mom a stereotype:
I was a single “Mom” of a child on two occasions for a total of 8 1/2 less than perfect years. I made do.
Legions of family constellations have substitute or fill-in Moms, great numbers of whom are Men.
I’ve had the great good fortune of knowing many women…and men…who did much parenting for many years. Many of them did not have biological children of their own. They went by the name “public school teacher”; some of them were Nuns I had as an elementary student, or got to know as I got older.
Being biological mother is restricted, of course, to the roughly half of humanity who happen to be female, but mothers die, often young, especially in the not always “good old days”, and others took over. And Dads die too, to be replaced by someone male or female who’s a surrogate.
We know at least one Mom whose two children have been born through surrogate mothers.
It doesn’t take much of a formal inventory of one’s own family constellation to find out how complicated “motherhood” all is.
For us, I think Mother’s Day will be a good day.
Out on the front step is a new plant which we hopefully will keep alive to glorious ongoing blooms for weeks, perhaps even most of the summer.
Happy Mother’s Day to everyone, and not just the biological mom’s out there!
I remember especially this Mother’s Day, my first wife, who I married 50 years ago, June 8, 1963. Barbara was the mother of our first child, Tom, who’s now 49. She died of kidney disease July 24, 1965, barely having started a Mom’s life. (UPDATE: I wrote a story about the 50th anniversary of our marriage recently. It is here.)