These are a few of my favorite dads

In honor of Dad’s Day, here is an eclectic mix of guys (both real and fictional) who elevate fatherhood to an art form.  I’ve learned from all of them, in one way or another.

1. St. Joseph, otherwise known as the foster father of Jesus.  There are many men out there who raise children who are not biologically their own, and they all have a friend in Joseph.  You have to give this guy props for rolling with it. He finds out that the woman he is betrothed to is pregnant, and he knows he had nothing to do with it; this has to be a seriously humiliating experience for any man.  But thanks to the visit of an angel and the bigness of Joseph’s heart, he loves that woman and her baby and stays around to help that little boy grow in wisdom and understanding.   Shared blood isn’t the most important thing, says the story of Joseph, and that’s definitely a message worth celebrating.

2.  Atticus Finch, of To Kill a Mockingbird.  When it comes to literary dads, there’s no one better.  Any guy who puts his own reputation on the line to stand up for justice and human dignity … well, he’s passing a pretty amazing message on to his kids.   And I love the quiet strength he shows, and the way that he has depths that his children can’t begin to realize (remember the mad dog incident?) because he has zero need to posture and grandstand in front of them.  He’s amazing.  In fact, a while back I was asked which literary character I secretly have a crush on, and Atticus came in second. (In case you are wondering, John Proctor of The Crucible came in first. Come to think of it, he also does something pretty amazing to teach his kids about honor.)

3. Mike Brady.  Let me preface this by saying that growing up, my sister and I watched Brady Bunch reruns nearly every single weekday evening, from 5 – 6.  We could identify each episode within the first twenty seconds, and we loved absolutely every one that did not feature Oliver or Vincent Price (though we watched those, too).   So Mike is probably the TV dad that I know best, and even when he was angry he was always so calm and understanding and even-keeled — kind of like my dad, in fact (more on that later).   He always kissed his wife enthusiastically as soon as he arrived home in the evening, even when she had that terrible hairdo that went straight down the back and flipped up.  Plus he was an architect!  Seriously cool.

4. My father-in-law.  This is a guy who knows all about being part of a community. He’s retired now, but the things he does in his small town — the boards and committees he is a part of, the service organizations he participates in — he really knows what it means to give of your time and talent to make your community better.  It’s one of the things I love most about my husband, in fact, and it’s easy to see where he learned this.  I wish everyone had this level of civic involvement and concern for the greater good.

5.  My husband. They say that one ironclad test of whether you should marry a guy is whether you can picture him as the father of your kids.  Scott passed that hypothetical with flying colors, and the materialization of actual flesh-and-blood children has only proved me right.  (And not long ago, when I happened to be sharing my thoughts on Atticus and John Proctor, my friend Lynne said, “Hmm — the things you love in those guys sound an awful lot like Scott.”  And you know what?  She’s right.)

6. My dad. What can I say except that in the cosmic lottery of dads, I hit the jackpot?  My dad is both smart and wise, and the two don’t always go together.  (“Smart” means you do well on the S.A.T’s.  “Wise” means you do well at life.)  I’ve been helped by that wisdom and perspective more times than I can say.  Plus Dad has always encouraged me to aim high and dream big. “The crime is in setting one’s sights too low,” he wrote in a book he gave me over twenty years ago.  At the same time, though, I have always known that if I crashed and burned, even through some stupid idiotic choice of my own, I could always go back to Dad for a hug.  That makes all the difference.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads and all who play a father’s role.  We love you.

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