by Charlie Hodge.
I was hoping to write something thoughtful and profound about Father’s Day, but feeling stuck. In the process of inspiration I found this old column and realized it still holds truth and impact and so…
Snapshots of fathers I know, or use to know, flick through my mind…
A young boy, eyes bigger than saucers, leans back in the chair and stares in terror at the clenched fist in front of him. “If you mash your corn into your potatoes again at the table, like some sort of pig, you’ll eat this too,” he screams. The man with the big hands that can be so cold and brutal, points to the door and says, “Get out of my house.” That sounds good to me. Dad’s pretty cruel.
A young boy, eyes bigger than saucers, leans over the boat and stares at the giant fish Dad has caught in the net for him. “Hold the rod steady boy – you’ve got yourself a fine fish,” he grins. “Now then would you like to let him go or keep your first fish?” The man with the big hands that can be so warm and kind explains that he usually throws back the fish so they can go on living. That sounds good to me. Dad’s pretty cool.
Paddy has no clue I’m even here. I’ve been watching him from the booth where I’m sitting at an information fair. For more than an hour he patiently and lovingly chats with his little girl, explaining certain things, asking her questions, sharing some laughter. From my distance I cannot hear a word they say, but the loving smiles (even when his little girl is not looking at him) scream out volumes of wonderful vibes.
When I tell my friend about the scenario he informs me Paddy is kind and caring with not just his kids but all children. In fact, all kids love Paddy. Seems his heart beats as solid and true as his drum meter.
Jay is a Vancouver environmentalist and it’s a fairly intense meeting he is trying to chair. Everyone around the table has issues and they want to be heard now, including his very young son. The youngster’s complaint is about a dirty diaper and he’s not about to take it anymore.
While other fathers may well have lost it in the chaos of the moment, Jay smiles at the passionate adults and says, “Folks I understand your feelings and your urgency. Believe me I want to change the world as well, but right now, for all our sakes, I’d prefer to change this diaper.” Then with all the patience and love that one can comprehend he does so. Only when the youngster’s world has returned to gurgles, grins and a smile does the rest of the world matter.
Tom pats his young minor lacrosse players on the back, warmly rubs their hair, and tells them to go out and shake hands with the opponent. He looks at me and grins, and then hugs his youngest son who played well in goal. I watch him watch the kids and then he wipes his eyes briefly. It’s his last game as coach; he won’t be back next year. He’s tired. The paleness of his face and the energy it takes to move this day has run out – and each day his energy runs out quicker.
Later, on a riverbank, we sit and share his worries. “I gotta admit that I am pretty scared of dieing, Chas. I’m not in a hurry but I guess that doesn’t matter,” he says attempting to grin. “But what bugs me is that no nine and eleven-year old boys should have to grow up without a father. We’re so close. It just doesn’t seem fair to them.” Tom stands on the edge of the bank and tosses pebbles gently into the water. The ripple effect seems symbolically ominous.
I have no answers.
A trained eye can spot a singer in a crowd just by watching them talk or even swallow. A profile will often reveal a pronounced voice box that moves significantly. On this particular hot summer afternoon I am standing near my good friend Barry and while he is staring at the stage I am staring at him – or more accurately, his throat. I’m at an advantage because I KNOW that he’s a singer, but that’s not why I’m staring. It’s because his throat is sort of trembling and I am worried. Suddenly the tears welling up in his eyes and the huge brimming grin on his face explain the problem. He has a lump in his throat.
“Look at her – isn’t she something, Chuck,” he beams watching his daughter singing on the stage. More than a decade before he wrote a hauntingly beautiful tune titled Julia Rose for his little girl. Now she waves back to Dad from stage.
The circle continues – and the beat goes on.