Sunday, June 15, 2014

Reflections On Father’s Day

My dad with my grandfather (my mom's dad) from before I was born.
Today I was once again out of the apartment. Usually I don’t like to be out and about two days in a row but there was a darn good reason to get back on the road. This time it was a short trip to my parent’s house about 15 minutes down the road so that I could spend time with the best man I have ever known, my father.  

Father’s Day is commonly seen as a compliment to Mother’s Day and the history of the day expounds upon that progression. A good summary, as is commonly the case, can befound on Wikipedia which outlines the history of Father’s Day in the following way:

Father's Day was inaugurated in the United States in the early 20th century to complement Mother's Day in celebrating fatherhood and male parenting.

After the success obtained by Anna Jarvis with the promotion of Mother's Day in the US, some individuals, such as Sonora Dodd, wanted to create similar holidays for other family members, and Father's Day was the choice most likely to succeed. There were other persons in the US who independently thought of "Father's Day", but the credit for the modern holiday is often given to Sonora Dodd of Central Methodist Episcopal Church, who was the driving force behind its establishment.

Father's Day was founded in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas. Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910. Her father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. After hearing a sermon about Jarvis' Mother's Day in 1909 at Central Methodist Episcopal Church, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father's birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June. Several local clergymen accepted the idea, and on 19 June 1910, the first Father's Day, "sermons honoring fathers were presented throughout the city."

However, in the 1920s, Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was studying in the Art Institute of Chicago, and it faded into relative obscurity, even in Spokane. In the 1930s Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level. She had the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional present to fathers. Since 1938 she had the help of the Father's Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men's Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the commercial promotion. Americans resisted the holiday during a few decades, perceiving it as just an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother's Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes. But the trade groups did not give up: they kept promoting it and even incorporated the jokes into their adverts, and they eventually succeeded. By the mid-1980s the Father's Council wrote that "(...) [Father's Day] has become a Second Christmas for all the men's gift-oriented industries."

A bill to accord national recognition of the holiday was introduced in Congress in 1913. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson went to Spokane to speak in a Father's Day celebration and wanted to make it official, but Congress resisted, fearing that it would become commercialized. US President Calvin Coolidge recommended in 1924 that the day be observed by the nation, but stopped short of issuing a national proclamation. Two earlier attempts to formally recognize the holiday had been defeated by Congress. In 1957, Maine Senator Margaret Chase Smith wrote a proposal accusing Congress of ignoring fathers for 40 years while honoring mothers, thus "[singling] out just one of our two parents". In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

More and more there are moment in my life when I notice that I am beginning to sound or act like my dad (not in the Harry Chapin sort of way) and I couldn’t be happier about that fact. It throws my wife off every once in a while when she notices these things but whenever she points them out I just smile, nod, and think to myself how appreciative I am of that fact. Even the times when my dad and I discuss things we seem to think along the same lines and the discussion progresses quickly… we can summarize the problems of the world rather quickly when we get on a roll.

I wouldn’t trade any of the moments that I have had with my father for anything and I am grateful for all that he has taught me both when instructing me in how to do something, supporting me when things aren’t going well, and the lectures he gave me when I screwed up (I know, your shocked that I’m not a perfect angel). While it may not have been obvious at the time, each of those kinds of moments shaped me into who I am today. Not perfect but much better off for having such a mentor in my life.

While I don’t expect to ever accomplish all that my father has in his life I am trying every day to at least come close. Of course, I doubt that this will ever happen as he still works hard every day and, for the most part, refuses to retire. I just wish that he would stop working one of these days and enjoy all that he has worked so hard for in his life. With that said, I don’t plan to ever stop working either. So, I will end this simply by saying Happy Father’s Day Dad. Thank you for all the help and support that you have given to me over the years without ever asking for anything in return.