More than a hundred

Jeff and the boys at our home at Vandenberg AFB, California, December 1990

Jeff and the boys at our home at Vandenberg AFB, California, December 1990

“One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.”George Herbert

Watching someone fight bravely the battles Jeff has fought these past 9 months, it’s easy to get overly sentimental about him.  Yet I think I can say without exaggeration that I have never known a man more devoted to his wife and children than Jeff has been for over 30 years and counting.

When women think of ideal traits to look for in a husband, those who plan to have children would do well to prioritize qualities that make a man a good father.  But this is a more complex task that it seems, as there is no “one size fits all” description of a good father.  If I try to pin down one characteristic that seems to be an absolute requirement for parenthood, devotion is the quality that keeps coming to mind.

Devotion to family comes at a price, of course, especially when extraordinarily challenging situations arise.  Hobbies are forgotten or nonexistent; career decisions and personal preferences take a backseat to the welfare of the children; at times one’s individual personality seems to vanish into the web of demands that shape every day.  Usually, none of these sacrifices are obvious in a devoted father; they are so inseparable from his character that it’s easy to be fooled into thinking he’s sailing along, living the same life he might have lived without children.  But those who look closely will know better.

Herbert touches on the truth about what makes a father’s role so unique.  A devoted father teaches continually, sometimes with words but mostly by example, and the cumulative effect of being ever-present in his children’s lives is a more profound lesson than any educator can impart.  I know, because I was blessed with a father whose example would be a hard act to follow.  I thank God every day for giving me a husband more than equal to the task.

I have mixed emotions about Father’s Day as I do about Mother’s Day, because there are so many for whom this is not a happy occasion.  But I hope that  those who may feel that they don’t have much to celebrate on Father’s Day will find ways to honor the crucial and often unsung role that fathers play.  However imperfect they may be, loving Daddies are almost everywhere we look: in history, in our extended families, in our local school or play group.  If you didn’t have the kind of father you wished for, you can still be one, or see one, and be strengthened by the gifts only a father can give.

35 Comments

  1. Mike Bertoglio

    This is a great post Julia and a great affirmation of a great father. Some of us had dads who were more like the Great Santini. I was blessed with a father in law who had more of the qualities listed In your post. This is my son’s first father’s day and I will forward this post to him. Blessings.

    • Thank you Mike, I am so glad you had a father-in-law who was like a Daddy to you. I think being a good father was even harder in past decades when all the social expectations were different and men were supposed to be tough all the time. Women are “allowed” and even encouraged to be emotional, but not so with men, at least not during my childhood. I have always believed (or at least hoped) that the more positive aspects of the women’s movement have been a benefit to men as well as women.

  2. Carolyn

    Please wish Jeff a Happy Fathers Day for me. I pray that Jeff is getting stronger each day. Love to you all.

    • Thank you Carolyn! Love you back 🙂

  3. Sheila

    To Jeff:
    Happy Father’s Day, Jeff. I am sure that Matt and Drew are reflections of you and the fine example you have shown them everyday. I follow Julia’s words and can sense the love and pride that she feels for you. I admire you, and your good character, too. With still another prayer, Sheila

    • Thank you Sheila, we appreciate each and every comment and prayer! I will share your message with Jeff and I know he will appreciate it. Thanks so much for being here and being our friend!

  4. An excellent tribute and well-written essay. I share your mixed feelings about the Hallmark holiday, so instead of buying my Dad something, I surprised him with a story I shared at a potluck gathering. It’s called, “My Dad (not bad for a sixth-grade grad)” and I posted it here –

    http://awaywithwordsblog.com/2013/06/15/my-dad-not-bad-for-a-sixth-grade-grad/

    Thanks for the post. I love the Herbert quote.

    • Thanks for sharing your post about your Dad, I really enjoyed reading it. I couldn’t see the photo at the bottom, though. I’m not sure if it’s a problem with my computer or with WordPress since I can usually see people’s photos. I appreciate your kind words about my post, I am happy you liked it!

      • Yeah, I really enjoyed your post.

        Thanks for letting me know about the problem viewing the photo. You aren’t the first to mention something. I’m going to consult an Internet tutor to see what is wrong.

  5. Nancy

    Happy Father’s Day, Jeff. Blessings and prayers.

    • Thank you Nancy! Love to you and your family.

  6. If I close my eyes to picture your family this is often how they look. As they did for the years we were at Vandenberg together. It was so fun to watch them coming toward us in the airport in Germany. The boys grown to handsome young men with hair on their faces. How swiftly the years have flown. I know you are having some dark days but the words you write here about Jeff are true. He has always been a loving father who taught the word of God to his boys and to all those around him. Happy Father’s Day Jeff. Keeping all of you in my prayers. Love you.

  7. Amy, thanks so much for your kind and generous words. You know us better than almost anyone so I’m glad you can still say something good :-). Seriously, thanks so much for your steadfast friendship over all these years. We love you!

  8. Blessed are the children who have a loving father. So are your boys. Usually fathers are too busy and the mother is sole one responsible. You are lucky. I wish him and the whole family everything good in life in the years to come.

    • Thanks so much! I do feel fortunate that Jeff has been so involved in our sons’ lives. I think it’s partly since they are male, so he feels a greater connection to them. I appreciate your visits here!

  9. myself, i wouldn’t ever consider marring someone if I didn’t think he would be a good father…. and my husband is exactly that.

    • You are not only fortunate, but wise too! 🙂 Thanks for being here!

  10. Dear Julia,
    Another thoughtful post. I have been thinking about all the posts I’ve read about Dads who were not the best, and I think you were very kind and thoughtful to remember all these sad children (and probably sad dads). I am amazed at the difference between the general mood (comments and blogs) surrounding the celebration of Mother’s Day vs. Father’s Day (not that everyone had good things to say about their mothers. But my observation was that there were far fewer loving posts about fathers than there were about mothers. It was nice to read your post – and also the posts of those who find Father’s Day difficult.
    Elephant

    • Thanks, I am so happy you liked the post. I have memories of some friends of ours who lost their only child to sickle-cell anemia and were advised not to have any more children. We used to sit behind them in church and every Mother’s Day there would be some kind of flowery talk about mothers and then all the mothers would be presented with flowers or some kind of gift. I always felt so sad for our friend and thought how much that must hurt for her and now whenever I see such things, especially around holidays, I am super aware that these can be very sad times for some of us. I agree with you, sadly, that I find many people who don’t have fond memories of their fathers, or at least have some sort of conflicted emotions. Not as often with mothers, although I fear that too may be changing as I’ve heard some sad stories about mothers lately. In any case, thanks so much for your kind words, for reading the blog and for your comments. I need to get back to your blog and enjoy some good old-fashioned children’s lit!

      • Dear Julia,

        You don’t need to do anything – nice you, you are busy now with a busy blog – no worries. Believe me I know all sides of the kid thing – pregnancies that didn’t make it – loss – super ouch! Wow, I know too much about that loss = my generation + my parent’s generation.

        I’ve got to thank you for sending a “real” (lovely long) response to my comment – how very kind of you! Life is a pain sometimes, but you are a sweet soul trying to make it all better. Lovely kind you!
        Elephant

        • Thank you, I’m glad you liked my “LONG” response; I’m a bit hypergraphic so writing (and talking :-)) come naturally to me! I enjoy reading the comments and appreciate your visits here!

          • Yes, lets be vague.

            • 🙂 Reminds me of a funny headline from The Onion that I saw this week: “Creepy One-Word Text Message From Mom Could Mean Anything”

              • It is an odd comment – strangely, I can’t recall the point of it. I liked your father’s day post, you wrote a nice response to my comment, you wrote, I wrote and then I wrote this? I can’t remember what I was thinking – doing too many things at one time. Sorry if it seemed creepy – it was likely more about me than you – but nothing creepy was intended! I feel silly!
                Sorry again,
                Elephant

                • Oh, no! (As Mr. Bill would say) I wasn’t referring to your message! I thought of that headline because of how it cracked me up when I first saw it – I am always SO afraid of being misunderstood that I tend to over-explain everything, and the Onion story made that particular neurosis so laughable. It was basically a parody of people who over-think everything, and it really touched a (funny bone) nerve with me when I read it! I did not think your message was creepy, I thought it was a fairly reassuring (if slightly ironic) response to my wordiness! 🙂 I do know one thing – on WordPress, it’s easy to write a response to a comment by one person when you meant it to be a response to another; that’s happened to me before and I’ve never found any way to edit a comment on someone else’s blog – WordPress doesn’t seem to allow that or maybe I just don’t know how to work it yet. Oh well, no apologies needed! Thanks again for being here!

                  • I think you are right – I was answering something else. There is some odd thing on WP – I have had many a comment go astray. I feel better! There is nothing wrong with a long comment. I think we have managed to confused each other nicely! It’s kind of funny.
                    All is well,
                    Elephant

                    • 🙂

                    • Did you do that one word thing to me? Last night I deleted the blogs I follow. I had way to many. This was a cross between a good idea and an accident.
                      Elephant

                    • No, but I got a big enough laugh out of this that I wish I had been the one! (at least I think I wasn’t the one- I’ll have to go back and check!) This really is some much-needed comic relief!

                    • Oh my we did it again! You were just responding – no more comments for us!
                      Elephant

                    • Oh, please don’t stop the comments! I thought it was funny. When I go to my reader I want to read everything there but since I don’t get there very often, I have to just go into my “follow” list and go to the ones I’m in the mood for. There are so many good blogs out there that I too am following too many, but I don’t ever seem to get around to reading them. But I still want to go read them “someday” so for me my reader is like a blog library – even when I don’t have time to do more than browse, I’m glad it’s there. I sent you the smiley because this exchange has really been funny for me, and I need funny right now.

                    • I will be happy to fumble and bumble along to make you happy. I will rediscover blogs and follow again! A smile to you too!
                      Elephant

  11. Such a beautiful tribute Julia. Devotion sure is paramount to all we do, especially in marriage and as you say being a parent. While I’ve never had that privilege, I do know many friends and families I so admire because their kids are a real joy to spend time. I always find that’s a pretty good indicator of whether or not I’ll enjoy spending time with the parent. It’s a beautiful thing to share you life with the right person. I had a ‘do-over’, but got it right the 2nd time round. Hope your Fathers Day brought joy and that Jeff was able to enjoy it too.

    • Thank you, I agree that the most engaging and well-behaved children often have delightful parents as well. Some kids need more years than others to get there, but I don’t think the hours parents invest in their children are ever lost, though we may sometimes feel that way. Devotion is a precious quality in anyone, but it takes huge amounts of time. I hope all the distractions and bling of the world do not steal our moments and rob us of the joy we find in devoting ourselves to our loved ones. Thanks for being here!

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