Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Other Fathers

I received a response to yesterday’s post that felt a bit wistful to me:

Actually, I'd love to hear how other fathers juggle their family responsibilities. It's difficult and I certainly haven't figured out all the answers.

What a perfect segue into Father’s Day. Happy Father’s Day, Columbia/HoCo.

Fatherhood is hardly a purely local phenomenon. But I do wonder how it will be observed today, in a time of so many health and financial challenges. Some families, I suppose, will venture out to celebrate Dad at one of the newly reopened local restaurants. Some will bring in Dad’s favorite takeaway for a special treat. Some will be cooking up homemade delicacies. And some will be scraping together what little they have. 

The Father’s Day of the greeting card companies and retail establishments is naturally aimed at the consumer. And that means those with disposable income to spend on cards and gifts. Their commercials and print adverts and store displays paint a certain homogenized picture of fatherhood where buying Dad something nice is not only possible, it’s expected.

But fatherhood  (and motherhood, for that matter) exists across all economic levels. Howard County may be known for its affluence but fathers here are not only limited to doctors and lawyers, scientists at APL, and high level government workers. Fathers here are also store clerks and mechanics and food service workers, teachers and postal employers, custodians and landscaping workers. They are no less fathers than those depicted in the Hallmark stereotype. 

Their lives are different. Their opportunities are different. But they have families they care about. Children who depend on them. And, who knows? They may think that Father’s Day is a big commercial racket and want nothing to do with it. Or they may receive the one tiny gift from the corner store as a treasure beyond all measure, because of the love and pride in the eyes of the small person who gives it.

Over the last year or so I have seen a rift in our community grow wider. On the one hand: those who are so desperate to protect what is theirs that they see the struggles of others as a sign of weakness or failure, and, on the other hand, those who see the struggles of others as a reason to transform the things that hold them back and create new opportunities that can lift everyone up. We see it in how we view future development, in redistricting, in how we respond to the coronavirus. It has come to color much of how I view local issues.

And so, today: Father’s Day. I’m thinking not only of my late father, and fathers-in-law, and my kind and giving husband. I’m also thinking a lot about other dads around town whose lives are nothing like mine. As author Connie Schultz wrote:

Happy Father’s Day to every man who has loved a child. To those who are struggling, may the day land gently.

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