#200 – Dick Bernard: Fathers Day

Happy Father’s Day all you Dads, and those whose role is or has been or will be that of “Dad”.
Wikipedia notes, without any fanfare, that this is the 100th anniversary of the observance of Father’s Day, it’s first observance on June 19, 1910.
I’ve been around long enough to have been a Dad not far short of half of those 100 years. Most Dad’s days have been pretty normal days; once in a great while comes one that’s not so hot; and if you’re really lucky, every now and then comes one that is a peak experience, not always on the day itself.
This year was one of those “peak experience” years, two weeks ago Friday, when I watched my oldest son give away his daughter, my granddaughter, to her new husband, Jeffrey. It was one of those “chest-swelling, button-splitting proud” moments for me. Leaving the Chapel, people in the pews applauded we grandparents of bride and groom, and I self-consciously waved. It’s a difficult experience to describe.
This Father’s Day also marks the end of a year spent trying to summarize nearly 400 years of my French-Canadian father’s family history. I’ve been going through boxes of documentation, recollections, letters, pictures: mother’s, father’s, sons and daughters, extended family…. For me the dates of birth, marriage, death are not nearly as interesting as the stories of these assorted names who are the roots of my particular family tree. The Bernard family story includes all of the elements of the story of most every family – memorable things, things you’d rather not have known. It’s just how it is.
Father’s Day came to be as an appropriate recognition somewhat akin to the earlier and still better known Mother’s Day. Father’s Day was, apparently, a woman’s idea at the beginning.
There can be endless discussion of why Mother’s Day came earlier than Father’s Day, or why it seems to still have a higher place in the pecking order of observances even today, but those can take place off to the side, and individually.
Being “Father” or “Mother” has traditionally and likely always will mean different roles and responsibilities which evolve over time in each family. (I’ve been both father and mother on more than one occasion – that is another story.)
Recently, a wonderful relative, now 90, wrote me about a long, long ago happening in her home when she was five years old. Her Grandpa – her Dad’s Dad, and my Great-Grandfather – had come to live with them on the farm after his wife had died. One day he fell down the steps and had to be hospitalized. After some time in the hospital, a decision needed to be made about him coming back to the farm for his last days, or remaining in the hospital. He died in the hospital a few months later. To this day there remain some residual feelings about whether or not Great-Grandpa’s last days were handled appropriately, and there are still conversations many years later. (In my opinion, there is no question: his last days were handled very appropriately.)
Agnes, with the directness a person her age is entitled to, wrote about the decision making process at that time: “Mom could not take care of him. [She c]ould not depend on Dad or brothers to help. Farm men don’t spend their time in the house.” And so it went. Another dilemma in the country, repeated endless times, people doing the best that they could under not always the best circumstances.
As we deal with the complexities of our own lives, a Happy Day to All, especially Dad’s.