Sunday, June 15, 2008

My "First" Father's Day.

As many readers may be aware, this is the first Father's Day I am celebrating as an honoree, as well as observing my own Dad's role in my life. It was a bit surreal (but meaningful) to be wished happiness on this holiday by my direct forbear. Obviously I've never been in the position to process it in just this way. One would be forgiven for thinking that people have been commemorating fatherhood in June for centuries, but it's not true. In fact it was Richard Nixon that made this an official holiday in the United States. That was on the official recommendation of his predecessor Lyndon B. Johnson. However, the very first Father's Day in this nation was in Fairmont, West Virginia on July 5th, 1908.

A woman named Grace Golden Clayton made the suggestion to her Methodist pastor that they should have a special service to remember the 361 men who died in a mine explosion in nearby Monongah the previous December. Two years later (in Creston, Washington), a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd was instrumental in creating a Father's Day inspired by her own Dad- a Civil War veteran who had raised her and her five siblings singlehandedly after the tragic death of their mother. This was the first such observance held in the month of June. Some of its early supporters included William Jennings Bryan and Calvin Coolidge (who was the first president to recommend it as a national holiday).

If you go further back on a different continent you might find mention of Männertagen (Men's Day), or gentlemen's day (Herrentag). This regional German celebration involves clannish activities whereby men hike through the woods, pulling a wagon-load of beer and wine. Apparently it devolves into a drunken feast featuring traditional foods such as blood sausage and liverwurst. I'm reasonably sure that such a tradition would be heartily embraced by menfolk throughout the Americas. Still I suspect that Father's Day is a much more sedate affair for most fathers in the US. No doubt it typically involves doing a lot of sitting on the couch while one's offspring do the chores routinely relegated to Dads.

As for myself, I've had a pleasant start to the day. Five-month-old Baby E. was decked out in a Ralph Lauren onesie that had been updated with a hand-drawn heart obscuring the ridiculously prominent polo player logo. It read "I love Daddy". My favorite drink from the chain store coffee shop was waiting for me when I awoke, and I was given PiMs as a special breakfast treat. I also received a nice necktie and a handmade card with a tracing of E.'s little hand. It was all extraordinarily touching, and I had to admire my infant's exquisite tastes. After M. visits her own father, we will be going out to lunch at the restaurant of my own choosing. And then I will take E. for a walk while M. changes the kitty litter. I am truly spoiled.

Of course tradition dictates that I still call my own Dad. This is always a painless affair because I actually like him. He's a good man who has taught me some important virtues about how to treat others without judging them. That quality has made our relationship run pretty smoothly over the years. He's now enjoying the fruits of retirement, doing a lot of travel, and taking lots of photographs. Like me, he enjoys sharing his images with others. If you get a chance, check out his photos at the Flickr site.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glad you liked it crawling around the mall wasn't easy. Glad you left your keys in the car.

9:02 PM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Hey, don't think I don't appreciate it... but from now on you can clean up your own spit-up, ok?

10:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good start merge. my 20yr olds seem a little tired of the fathers day thing but acknowledged their love for me.
my daughter gave me a Tators of the lost ark mr. potato head and my son shared all his stresses with me...ah...fatherhood...my dad got his traditional golf-ball medley at the revolving door visits from the fam and of course a good meal from mom..here's to many good fathers days in the future,MP.

9:46 AM  

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