Thoughts On Father’s Day…

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“Marcus, you go around the country inspiring people, but what inspires you?

This question was put to me a few years back. There are a ton of things which inspire me, but at the time, I had a simple answer: Springsteen lyrics.

See, just a few days prior, I’d picked up Springsteen’s latest release, “Devils And Dust.” Now, it wasn’t lyrics that inspired me to new levels, but rather, lyrics which showed me how fortunate I am. The example I gave to this person (and which I now share with you) was a few lines from my fav Boss song, “Long Time Coming.” Here goes:

“My Daddy he was just a stranger who lived in a hotel downtown,
When I was a kid he was just somebody…somebody I’d see around”

Folks, this lyric shows me I’m lucky. In this country where so many absentee fathers are simply out of the picture of the lives of their children, I didn’t have that problem. I hat a Dad who was still married to my mom, who came home from work, who didn’t abuse me, didn’t chastise me, didn’t treat me as a nuisance. A father who was actually a father, unlike the father figure from this tune. That, if nothing else, gave me a foundation so, so many people never got to have. I did…and I’m lucky.

2008 is my first Father’s Day as a father. You’d think that due to my role as a father now, I’d be all pumped about having love and attention lavished on me. Negative. I’m humble. I’m grateful. And above all else, I’m only doing the job of father that my dad taught me to do. Those accolades should be given to my Dad for teaching me to be a father and a man-it’s certainly not something I came to on my own.

Everyone knows that for a good portion of society, Christmas is a bittersweet holiday. The Norman Rockwell ideal of Christmas; family, a big turkey, a gorgeous tree, etc. isn’t all that realistic. Every year, someone dies, someone divorces, someone gets their feelings hurt and bans their participation with the family. That all American ideal is a tough one to live up to for most families.

Yet, I think Father’s Day is even more bittersweet. There are just so, so many absentee fathers out there, or fathers who never learned how to be a man; those who feel being a man means ruling with an iron fist, or controlling every action of the family, or that he should be thanked and commended at every turn due to the fact he’s a provider. Those aren’t things that make a man and we’ve done a shitty job in this country of associating testosterone-laden warriors as men. Emotionless, stoic men who never show any feelings, nor allow others to have feelings are the typical kind of men who (if they’re even around) are what wives and children often have to put up with.

With Father’s Day, we’ve been taught to honor our fathers’ sacrifices and child-rearing. But how do you honor a man who isn’t even in the picture? And should he be honored at all? And what about feeling obligated to honor a man who’s emotionally abusive? Or who suppresses one’s mother? Or who can’t get his stuff together enough to keep the family together? Those who have a father like this have to be really conflicted come the middle of June every year. I feel for them-I really do. I not only have a father who taught me to be a man, but two grandfathers who also emulated what a man should be. That makes me triple lucky. I get three male role models when so many people have none. I can’t help but feel a little greedy…and still so fortunate.

My listening pleasure this Father’s Day morning wasn’t Springsteen, but a guy out of Texas named Roger Craiger. Specifically his song, “I Got The Guns.” A better tribute to the men in his life has never been written. Summed up is one line which Roger seems to speak for all the guys out there who, like me, were so lucky to have positive male role models:

Maybe if I try real hard I can be half the man he was…”

With that, gentlemen, I hope that today you feel like I do. Lucky to be taught by good men and inspired to fulfill your role as father and man to the best of your ability. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there…and may this day be a reminder of the importance dads and men play in the lives of family. Let’ss not take this responsibility lightly.

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