Sunday, June 21, 2009

Peter Pan and real men

While watching a British male version of Sex and the City (that's the advertisement not the actual fact) called Manchild I was struck by the difference in attitudes and social situations of these four men. Only one of them has not had children or been married, Patrick, and the other three are as juvenile as they come, which puts me in mind of my own father on this Father's Day and I am sad, not just because this is the third Father's Day without my father but because these men are indicative of what fatherhood has come to mean. These are definitely men who are children with large disposable incomes.

My dad had his faults. He was vain and afraid of getting old. He primped and preened, but he was a father, a real dad. He was a good role model and still the mark against which I measure all men. He was responsible, caring, thoughtful, generous with himself and his time, tough when he had to be, loving and kind. He was a real man, not a child with a car, house and bank account. He was a little obsessed with age but he was never old and he didn't look old even though he was 79 when he died, not because he was childish or a child but because he was thoroughly engaged in living and enjoyed every moment of his life.

Although Dad wasn't wealthy -- how could he be married to Mom, a woman determined to have everything she ever wanted -- or have an obscenely large disposable income, he wasn't obsessed with things. He was obsessed with family and living. He still managed to go on long vacations and have most of what he needed and a few things he wanted, like his chickens and trees and flowers and plants. He was involved with all of his children, not as an ATM or someone who threw money at them and then went on about his own life, completely invested in our lives, our thoughts, dreams, aspirations, trials, tribulations and joys. He cared.

He cared about his family and his friends. He cared about the people around him. He never needed or wanted to impress anyone and yet impressed them anyway with his friendliness and generous soul. He may have wished to remain young, but he didn't spend his life obsessing about toners or moisturizers or manicures or any of the million things that men today seem to be caught up in. He could admire a beautiful young woman without needing to find a way between her legs to prove his virility or his youth. He was more interested in how people see and live in the world than sexual Olympics, which is not to say he was oblivious to sex. He preferred to keep that part of his life private and not parade it for the whole world to see. He was quite modest in that way. Women found him very attractive and Dad accepted their interest but didn't seek to indulge some Peter Pan fantasy that he still "had it". He had it, no mistake about that. He didn't need to flaunt it or take it out for every Tonya, Diana or Harriet. Dad was a grownup, something most men nowadays are not.

I've found very few men who could live up to my idea of a responsible husband and father. My brother is one of them and I can honestly say I know two or three men of my acquaintance that came out of the same class, one of them a very close friend who lives nearby. I wish there were more like my father. No doubt the world would be a better and a safer place.

On this Father's Day I remember my father and I wish the men like him a very happy and well deserved rest. Thank you, Jimmy, Jerry, Chili Bob and John for giving me real men to appreciate and believe in, men like my father. This day is for you.


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