The NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony last Saturday night was a lot of things. Emotional. Heartful. Inspiring. It was also a bit of a blow to fatherhood. In the 6 hours worth of speeches from the inductees – okay, the speeches weren’t quite that long – Mama and Grandmama got the lion’s share of the praise from a good number of the players, Richard Dent and Marshall Faulk being the exceptions, and furthering the cause for women who wish themselves Happy Father’s Day every June. While it’s not the first time that any of us have heard an athlete say that his main goal in being successful was to buy Mama a house/a car/some jewelry/a rocket ship, it did solidify the fact that Mama trumps Daddy in the battle at home almost always. Like Chris Rock said, all the good songs are written about Mama – Tupac’s “Dear Mama”, Boyz II Men’s “A Song for Mama”, and “Sadie” by the Spinners (to their credit there was a Daddy reference in there) – while all Dad gets from the songwriters is “Papa Was a Rolling Stone”. It’s an all too real reminder of the state of fatherhood in “The Community” and illustrates why some people say that there are no more real fathers out there.
I offer this as an antithesis to that argument.
I am a thirtysomething year old man pushing perilously close to that dreaded “F” word that comes after thirty-nine though my boyish good looks would lead you to believe otherwise (shameless self love). Most men my age go through life at this stage without much fanfare; I have a few friends with sons, daughters, wives or girlfriends that think they hung the moon but for the most part guys have grown accustomed to going without much credit or pats on the back or even attention. It’s just the way with guys that aren’t singers, actors or comedians; you do something cool, and you keep it moving. I was presented with an opportunity to speak in front of my church a couple of weeks back, a simple task really, I was asked to put together a brief memorial tribute on behalf of the music department. I’d be on the microphone for 45 to 60 seconds tops. Outside of a few presentations at work I hadn’t done much public speaking so I figured this a prime opportunity to get up in front of people and justify all that tuition money Mom and Dad spent on me as a Communications major. Get up, speak eloquently, and sit down. It was a simple mission, one of those aforementioned things that guys my age do, don’t expect anything from, and usually forget about within a few months. Not important at all in the grand scheme of things except for the fact that my Dad showed up.
I didn’t know he was there, didn’t see him from the podium as I stood to speak and looked out over 2500 or so people, perhaps if I would have if I didn’t get a bit of the jitters and look down at my script a little more than look out at the people I was addressing. I was up there a little longer than I thought that I would be, about 90 seconds, but I made it through okay. Ol’ Dr. Fulmer back on the campus of Georgia Southern (Go Eagles!) would have been a little peeved at my lack of eye contact but I think a “B+” would have been in order. After Church, I reached in my pocket and turned my cell phone back on and there was a voicemail message from my Dad in his usual baritone.
“Hey, Man! This is Dad. Came to see you speak at church today. You did great. Tried to wait for you to come out but I didn’t see you. Maybe I’ll see you at the house a little later on. Talk to you later.”
The tiny speech was nothing to me. A little over a minute addressing the congregation, half of which were probably flipping through or doodling in their programs, a chance for me to utilize some public speaking skills in front of a decent sized gathering. But to Dad, it was more than that. It was just like every soccer or football game that I played in that he attended, just like every little thing in college that he drove 3 hours at the drop of a hat for to see me in, it was just Dad supporting his kid, his thirtysomething almost “F-word” kid doing something that wasn’t a big deal to me but was obviously big enough for him to get up, skip his own church to come to mine to see me speak for 90 measly seconds…just because I’m his kid. That’s it.
I’d like to be a Dad, I really want to be a Dad actually, but I think sometimes I’m afraid to because there’s no way I can be the father that my Dad is. To be so selfless and have the ability to think that every moment, no matter how immaterial I might think it is, is important. There’s something regal in that, something that is insanely incredible about how much love it takes to think that everything is significant…and while I can’t really fathom it, I’m glad that I have a Dad that can.
It’s unlikely that I’ll ever make the Hall of Fame in anything, maybe a bestseller list one day, but I don’t know that I’ll ever have the opportunity to openly buck the trend and thank my Pop openly in front of millions on TV, but I’ll take solace that the 100 or so that may trip over this page will know that there’s one Dad in our Community who is a great man. If you’ve got one too, call him and tell him so, he may have turned off the radio in disgust because “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” was on. 🙂
~thanks for reading
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