On Father’s Day

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On My Honor • Michael Brown

As most of you know, this Sunday is the special day we set aside each year to honor our fathers. Although there have been efforts to establish Father’s Day since 1910, Americans have only officially celebrated the day since President Nixon signed it into law in 1972. Many other countries have a day for fathers, although not necessarily the third Sunday in June.
There are many ways to pay respect to a father, from sharing a meal with him to sending him a funny tie. If you are an older father, then like me you are likely satisfied with a card or a phone call from your children. Since mine have their own children, I’m happy to make way for my son and son-in-laws. On the rare occasion when we can all get together, I feel truly blessed.
This year, I’ll be away from home and traveling most of the day. There will be plenty of opportunities to think of my own dad, and ponder what made him an exceptional father. Dad was very protective and supportive of his family. You wouldn’t have crossed him more than once, but I can’t recall feeling anything but safe around him. He was my best fan, whether it was “Come on, Mike!” at a Little League game, or sitting, beaming, at a school award ceremony. Dad delighted in his daughter as well, my little sister, as she was growing up. From watching him, I learned how to enjoy being with little girls, and I’m certain it made me a better father to my children.
Last weekend was our annual Huey family reunion. I took the opportunity to ask various kinfolk, individually, what they thought made a good father. Invariably, they each listed patience, unconditional love, and commitment. That struck me as appropriate since many of those I questioned were young fathers who spent most of the weekend keeping up with their very young children. One female cousin said that, above all, an exceptional father is one who loves and cares for the mother of his children.
My favorite Father’s Day was a trip my son and I made to NASA in 1997. We left home very early and made it there in time to be the first people in the door. Astronaut Jerry Linenger had just returned from his 132 days on the Russian space station Mir, at the time the longest time in space for an American. My son and I reveled in the “debriefing” he gave, along with the shuttle crew who had brought him home. After that, we watched two of the Apollo veterans, Alan Bean and Thomas Stafford, conduct an international video conference with those attending an art festival in Rome. I’ve always dreamed of traveling in space, and being able to share an experience like that with my son was very special.
Yesterday, four of my cousins and I canoed 3 miles from below the Stillhouse Lake dam to my cousin’s farm on Elmer King. The river was running about 2,000 cubic feet per second and I white-knuckled it the whole way. During the trip, I joked darkly to my cousin from Virginia that, all in all, I’d had a good life. At lunch today, while laughing about our Lampasas River Adventure, he asked me to name the most memorable year of my life. Without hesitation, I told him it was 1979, the year I became a father.
Michael Brown is an education consultant and a former teacher. He can be contacted at michael.brown@utexas.edu.