June 15th, 2014

Happy Father’s Day!

[NOTE: This a slightly edited version of a previous post of mine.]

It’s Father’s Day. A sort of poor stepchild to Mother’s Day, although fathers themselves are hardly that. They are central to a family.

Just ask the people who never had one, or who had a difficult relationship with theirs. Or ask the people who were nurtured in the strength of a father’s love and guidance.

Of course, the complex world being what it is, and people and families being what they are, it’s the rare father-child relationship that’s entirely conflict-free. But for the vast majority, love is almost always present, even though at times it can be hard to express or to perceive. It can take a child a very long time to see it or feel it; but that’s part of what growing up is all about. And “growing up” can go on even in adulthood, or old age.

Father’s Day—or Mother’s Day, for that matter—can wash over us in a wave of treacly sentimentality. But the truth of the matter is often stranger, deeper, and more touching. Sometimes the words of love catch in the throat before they’re spoken. But they can still be sensed. Sometimes a loving father is lost through distance or misunderstanding, and then regained.

There’s an extraordinary poem by Robert Hayden that depicts one of these uneasy father-child connections—the shrouded feelings, both paternal and filial, that can come to be seen in the fullness of time as the love that was always, always there. I offer it on this Father’s Day to all of you.


Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house.

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?

23 Responses to “Happy Father’s Day!”

  1. waitforit Says:

    Love is contract; something to depend on.
    But the remedy for a father’s fault
    Of broken promises cannot be won
    At law or equity. Wounds filled with salt
    Can linger on through the generations.

    Love is contract; ready for devotion,
    It can make us greater than emotion.
    And bring that power under agreement
    That come what may our evolution
    Will find our names in the book Heaven sent.

    Love is contract. The girls and boys who,
    Have fathers that practice the contract, do
    With more resource and vigor find, life true.
    And make their generations full and good:
    The commandment says, “Thus the father should.”

  2. parker Says:

    All of my children and grandchildren wished me happy fathers day over the phone. But what touched my heart the most was a message from our newest granddaughter who is almost 2 years old wishing me “happy farters day gampa”. That made my day and will stay with me for many more days to come. Being a father and a grandfather is a blessing, despite the trying times of dealing with teenagers. 😉 The movie godfather had one thing right…. family is everything.

  3. Mr. Frank Says:

    Once when my adult children were joking around about getting spanked as kids, I pointed out that they rarely if ever got spanked. They quickly responded with “Well you would have.” That’s part of being a father.

  4. neo-neocon Says:


    That’s a very interesting poem, thanks. Do you know the source?

  5. parker Says:

    “They quickly responded with “Well you would have.” That’s part of being a father.”

    🙂 Yep, children need fathers who love them, guide them, and stand ready to impartially enforce the rules with a swift swat to the behind when necessary. We have songs about motherless children, but woe to the child without a father who loves and protects and guides.

  6. waitforit Says:


    I’m not sure I DO know the source since I did it. I was just playing. Then, the wrath and the child melded into one and left me looking on. It was an accident.

  7. waitforit Says:

    Parker, from now on, you will be called FParker, for Fart Parker!

    Pull my finger! Don’t neglect the classics!

  8. Mac Says:

    Neo, is that phrase “the love that was always, always there” yours, or are you alluding to someone else’s words? If it’s yours, my compliments, and if it’s not, I’d like to know the source. It’s very powerful, and expresses very well something about the often unexpressed, or at least unvocalized, love a father has for his children. It comes into my mind whenever the subject comes up, and I couldn’t remember where I’d read it. I guess it must have been your previous posting of this.

  9. J.J. Says:

    Little did I know that, of all the experiences of my life, being a father would be the sweetest and most rewarding. I thank God for it.

  10. gampa parker Says:


    At my age its becoming a question of how much dignity remains, so instead of FParker I would prefer to be known as gampa parker. 🙂

  11. gampa parker Says:

    “being a father would be the sweetest and most rewarding”

    That says it all.

  12. waitforit Says:

    GParker it is!

  13. neo-neocon Says:


    I wrote that, thanks. I wrote the whole post except for the poem. The poem always brings tears to my eyes.

  14. neo-neocon Says:


    Nicely done.

    It also reminds me a bit of the sentiment in this Blake poem (which is about school, but the following two stanzas are the last two of the poem, and they could also apply to parental mistreatment of a child):

    O! father & mother, if buds are nip’d
    And blossoms blown away,
    And if the tender plants are strip’d
    Of their joy in the springing day,
    By sorrow and care’s dismay,

    How shall the summer arise in joy,
    Or the summer fruits appear?
    Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,
    Or bless the mellowing year,
    When the blasts of winter appear?

  15. Tonawanda Says:

    Just better to speak the bitter truth.

    Fathers can make all the difference.

    Even if, as Plutarch said, Coriolanus and Julius Caesar were “successful” despite lacking a father, in a sense, so what.

    They (fathers) go away, or they do not care. Is there an example anywhere in literature where the absence of a father is nothing? Probably, but I don’t know of one.

    Coriolanus and Julius Caesar were great successes.

    And fathers going away are often related to mothers hectoring them to go away, justifiably or not. Sometimes the mothers are just selfish and entitled, sometimes not.

    A child does not know.

    But the father leaving is a deep and lasting thing. There is no court of law or equity which can provide a remedy.

    Is it possible, at the near end of life, for a human being to think, I miss my father? The father I never had?

    And if it is possible, what does it mean?

    Is there an immediacy to life overlooked by the grand theories?

  16. Steve Says:

    A National Joke or a National Embarrassment? Common Core Math exposed:


  17. waitforit Says:

    Blake. Donne. Shakespeare.
    That’s all I have room for.
    Except Robinson Jeffers and
    Joan Didion, who, because of truth, made two art forms into one.

    Let Them Alone by Robinson Jeffers.

    If God has been good enough to give you a poet
    Then listen to him. But for God’s sake let him alone until he is dead;
    no prizes, no ceremony,
    They kill the man. A poet is one who listens
    To nature and his own heart; and if the noise of the world grows up
    around him, and if he is tough enough,
    He can shake off his enemies, but not his friends.
    That is what withered Wordsworth and muffled Tennyson, and would have
    killed Keats; that is what makes
    Hemingway play the fool and Faulkner forget his art.

    At’s what kills. It killed MA, I think. I hope not, but I think so. You have to run, like a crab.

  18. Tonawanda Says:


    Just a side note.

    I loved Slouching Toward Bethlehem (Didion).

    A little book of little essays, but so lovely.

    And yet she turns out in real life to be not such a much.

    What am I missing?

  19. gampa parker Says:

    Beyond poetry, beyond the whimsical trends of the times we find ourselves living/suffering through; there remains the basic truth of what makes us human and stands fast to support and defend what makes possible a civil society. It is fathers at the head of families who protect and defend a society that promotes the ability of children to become the best of what their abilities can achieve.

    I have a brave daughter, 2 sons, 5 grandchildren, 3 siblngs, many 1st cousins, 2nd cousins, and many neices and nephews. We stand firm as family. We have a stronghold, a place of retreat. Do not tread on us. We will kill as many of your alphabet hordes of robot lackeys as we can. We will never wave the white flag.

    We, and others like us, are a force that the leftists can not imagine. We are flyover country, land at your own peril.

  20. Beverly Says:

    I’m lucky to still have my dad, 86, a widower, with 2 girlfriends (one of whom is 90! and very sweet). Called him today and thanked him for being a great dad. I gave him specifics until he couldn’t stand it, and, choking up a little, changed the subject to the US Open (after telling me he’s “damned proud” to have me for a daughter and that he loves me a lot, too. 😉

    I’m grateful that he and my mother had a great marriage. I had a tough time with her, but they were our rock.

  21. NeoConScum Says:

    Blessings & Best Wishes to the Dad’s here(Belatedly).

    A few book suggestions well worth the read/re-read: Meg Meeker, “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” (’06) & “Boys Should Be Boys” (’08) and Christina Hoff Summers, “The War Against Boys” (’00).

    I had two great parents. Mom was a Protestant Christian and Dad was an Atheist(Non-Preachy type). Neither ever turned the other cheek to bullies and my 3-year younger brother and I learned from their examples that you the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. Period. I will ALWAYS Love the group motto of Dad’s B-29 Bomber Group in the Pacific War: WITH MALICE TOWARD SOME. (462nd B.G./ The Hellbirds)

    Both Mom & Dad were well educated and loved history, literature and the Mountains. Hunting & Fishing and summer vacations in the High Sierras of Calif. I could shoot their .22 Rifles over their knees & fallen timber by 2-3-yrs. Trout fishing, the same in the high mountain lakes. I can still hear Mom, Dad and Pat when I stroll out among the tall pines around Twin Lakes & TJ Lake at Mammoth… I am haunted by high crags and waters.(Thank you, Norman Mc.)

    Nena and I just returned from 2-weks in the Great Smoky Mtns. of N.Carolina and our beautiful “rental palace” on a hillside above the Little Tennessee River. Back in October. We lost our beloved son(my step son)on March 4th of this year(40-yrs old). That magic country helped restore the smiles to our sad hearts. R.I.P., Peter.

  22. neo-neocon Says:


    I am so so sorry to hear of your enormous loss. Please accept my heartfelt condolences.

  23. NeoConScum Says:

    Thank you from us both, Neo. You, Mam, have a large and generous heart.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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