We’ve all heard the saying that the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.
We give little credit to the poet, William Ross Wallace, who surely never imagined that the words from his 1865 poem would become commonplace in the decades, longer than a century, following publication. The words praised motherhood as a strong force long before the days of the women’s rights movement. It was also before the establishment of Mother’s Day.
Although the impact of those words cannot be measured, we may lose sight of the background as we fail to acknowledge the hands that built the cradle. And so here we are at Father’s Day. Since history books are filled with the accomplishments of men (after all, it is his-story), fathers have more-or-less had their say all these many centuries. But they told their own story, and it seldom reflected their status as father figures.
In 1910, here in our United States, a motherless daughter, Sonora, realized the true worth of her single-parent father, William Jackson Smart. Her efforts were directed through the YMCA in Spokane, Washington, and the holiday began to take roots. It became a national holiday in 1972, 58 years after Mother’s Day was established.
Yet fatherhood just “ain’t what it used to be.” Apparently Adam, who had no role model, was not blessed with parenting skills. And David and Solomon certainly had work to do in their relationship. Some examples through the ages show different men, from peasants to rulers, who seemed unsure of how to relate to their children or to their children’s mothers. On the other hand, bless that father of the prodigal son! What a lesson he taught all of us.
There are all kinds of fathers. Not all fathers, then and now, were of the same temperament. We use an assortment of adjectives to describe them: stay-at-home, biological, absent, unknown, step/grand/great-grand, foster, kind, unkind, loving, roaring-lion, teddy bear, drunk, sober, generous, stingy. Take your pick.
My own biological father was a part of my life for a very short time, but I have come to know him through the letters and scrapbooks he left behind, and through the memories of others who knew him. Since he was 50 years old when I was born, and my mother was 18, I cannot imagine that our household would have been normal in any way had the marriage survived.
As it turned out, the father-figure in my life, my grandfather, was of my father’s generation. Through it all, he was the guiding masculine voice in my life. He was the one who taught me how to drive a car, but it was my mother who taught me to fish, disciplined me, instilled a love of reading, honed my housekeeping skills, played games, and put jigsaw puzzles together. Later I would find and marry someone who became a model for fatherhood. He had no role model, having lost his father at age eight. Our daughters loved him, respected him, obeyed him, and honored him in many ways, not only on Father’s Day, but every day.
During the 60 years we were married, we seemed to enjoy knowing the parents of our friends and relatives. Some of those men served as role models, but also as virtual fathers.
One such was Howard Logan, the father of Canton’s Robert Logan. When Howard was turning 80, I wrote a poem to honor him. It was from a son’s viewpoint, so I had to pick Robert’s brain. He told about learning from his father how to bait a hook, and how to cast a line and reel a fish in, how to tie a tie and shine his shoes. He learned the workings of an automobile, and how to drive a car with a clutch. With Howard’s guidance, he mastered the art of writing a check … and saving a portion of his income.
Howard’s generation had learned their lessons in a different day and age. He was the son of a Confederate Veteran, a south Georgia native, a farmer whose fields stretched to the curvature of the earth. His faith was evident in every word and action. Today’s fathers are faced with different lessons to be learned. Although technology has taken from us that personal touch, there will always be situations that a computer can’t fix, and communications that require a hug and a high-five, and a spoken “I Love You!”
Some of us in the Hughes family gathered on Sunday at the Fannin County cemetery where the patriarch is buried. His marker reads “Joe M. Hughes.” He was born in 1855, and the cemetery was established at the time of his death in 1921 on land that he donated. His desire was for his descendants to be buried there, as many of them are, along with other families including distant kin as well as neighbors and friends.
The cemetery is on a mountain top, and the view serves to remind us of the vastness of God’s creation, and of our own mortality … and immortality. It was a fitting way to honor our forefathers. Needless to say, we had a dinner-on-the-ground first, a must for Father’s Day. I hope for all of you on Sunday a day of celebration — family fun, food, fellowship and fathers.