Jerry Davich: Father’s Day meaning reminded by, who else, a child
Jerry Davich email@example.com June 16, 2012 4:04PM
Jerry Davich. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 18, 2012 6:35AM
My column for today, Father’s Day, was pretty much written in my head until I spoke with Zernul “Z” Shackelford on Friday afternoon. Darn you, Z.
Until then, my feelings about today’s annual “holiday” were becoming jaded, even cynical.
For instance, I figured the only reason there even is a Father’s Day is because about a month after our beloved and heartwarming Mother’s Day, some sympathetic soul or a belligerent father said, “Hey, wait a minute ... ” And that epiphany or complaint then started the annual frenzy for the worst gifts ever. And obligatory ones at that.
You know the routine. Father’s Day is approaching. Think quick, what should we get dear old dad or, worse yet, our deadbeat sperm donor who we sometimes see on the weekends? Gadgets and gizmos. Neckties and car-cleaning kits. Lawn tools and booze. Blah, blah and blah.
I also was planning on noting how so many “fathers” are light years away from being “dads,” the difference between weekend parental obligation and weeknight homework help after returning home from a long day at work.
Of the 68 million or so fathers in this country, I wondered, how many of them are dads? Half? One-third? One-fifth?
Anyway, this past week I’ve been watching and listening to the vital interaction between fathers and their kids. I didn’t come away too impressed and I think it affected my initial attitude for this column.
I saw one self-absorbed father totally ignore his young son inside a grocery store. The boy simply had questions for his father, but he was too distracted to notice, or to reply. I know, I know, young kids can ask endless questions. I understand that. My now 27-year-old daughter used to ask more questions on any given day than a game of Trivial Pursuit.
Sometimes I made up answers just to appease her odd queries.
But the father-son exchange I noticed was hard to ignore. Here’s why. After the boy’s fifth or sixth question (about an item on the shelf), the father slapped the boy across the top of the head to shut him up. He immediately shut up. I did, too. (It’s the father’s prerogative to discipline or punish his kid in public, right? Even if he’s a jerk.)
That brief but bitter experience left a bad visual in my memory leading up to today.
I also was going to point out that Father’s Day was founded by a woman, not a man.
It was conceived slightly more than a century ago by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Wash., while she listened to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a widowed Civil War veteran who was left to raise his six children on a farm.
A day in June was chosen for the first Father’s Day celebration (June 19, 1910) proclaimed by Spokane’s mayor because it was the month of Smart’s birth. Yet it was only in 1972 (!) when President Richard Nixon signed the public law that made it permanent.
During lean economic years, including the Great Depression, I just read, the holiday was kept alive by profit-minded retailers hawking all those gadgets, gizmos, and lawn tools.
Things haven’t changed since then. In fact, Sonora Dodd’s special day to humbly honor her father is now a $12 billion a year “retail holiday,” according to one study.
This year, the average dollar amount spent on each father is expected to be $136, according to the annual Brand Keys Father’s Day survey. The most common gift? A greeting card or e-card. Yawn. Nothing says “I love you, Dad” more sincerely than someone else’s words on a card that took you two minutes to find.
To top off my lack of enthusiasm for today and my dissatisfaction with so many absentee fathers in our society, I planned on tossing in a few eye-opening statistics about fatherhood.
Such as, only 36 percent of children younger than age 6 had more than a dozen outings with their father in the last month. And only half of children younger than 6 eat breakfast with their father. There were other, more sobering stats to share, but you get the idea.
Again, my skepticism clouded my optimism for today’s meaning, purpose and importance.
But then I met Shackelford, a Merrillville millworker, truck driver and father of four girls, ages 5 to 18.
“I’ve got my hands full,” he joked.
Yes, I’m sure he does. But he’s also one of the few men who describes himself on his social media sites as such: “I am a father, husband, musician, composer, writer, and independent filmmaker.” Not the other way around, say: Filmmaker, mill worker, composer, husband and then father.
On my Friday radio show, he proudly noted that his youngest daughter, 5-year-old Kayli, is planning his entire day for him today.
The two are going to sing and play music together, use their Wii video game to play tennis and go skateboarding, eat tacos and drink soda pop, and then watch together the kid movie “Madagascar,” he told me. Kayli also plans on giving her dad a “mystery card” that she made before school ended.
“Not all necessarily in that order,” he joked.
Now that’s a Father’s Day, I told him.
More to the point of today’s column, that’s exactly what this father, newspaper columnist and radio talk show host needed on Father’s Day 2012. And maybe for you, too.
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