Commentary by Bill Buchanan
I have had several tough jobs in my life. I have baled hay in 100-degree heat. I have cut and ground metal all summer in a steel mill. I have dug a foundation for a house in rocky soil using only a pick and shovel. But I have never been a parent, the toughest job of all.
While my daddy died when I was still young, he had a great influence on me. I looked up to him for guidance, discipline and love. He delivered plenty of all three. He taught me many valuable lessons, one of the most important being to give respect to others, no matter what their race, religion or sex. My daddy was a very hard worker. He drove a bulldozer for a construction company all day, and worked on his farm raising cattle in the evenings and on weekends. He was a perfect role model for what a work ethic should be. But no matter how tired he was when he came home, he always had the energy to play a game of catch. He taught me to tie my shoes and hit a fastball. He taught me how to bait a hook and clean a fish.
He taught me that while we were not rich, I was more fortunate than a lot of people. At Christmas, we would often go visit families in the community who didn’t have a lot. We would take food for the adults, and a few toys for their kids. He wanted my sister and me to see how little some people had, and to appreciate a warm bed and plenty of food. He also wanted to bring a little Christmas to children who might not have had one otherwise.
He was my toughest critic. He was not easy on me, especially when he felt that I had not given my best. Daddy was not one for subtlety. He could be harsh and demanding. His criticism stung, and it sometimes hurt my feelings. But I learned that he was not being unkind; he was trying to make me a better person by not allowing me to give less than my best effort.
It was the same with discipline. Daddy had high standards. If you chose not to obey him, you were flirting with getting your butt whipped. He wore these thin little belts that did not look very menacing, but he wielded them like a Jedi master. If the crime was serious enough, I was told to “go to the bedroom, think about what I’d done, and wait for Daddy to come in with his belt.”
I know now that he was making sure his temper had cooled down so that he did not hit me in anger. But the psychological effect of sitting around waiting to be punished was usually worse than the actual whipping.
Afterward, he would sit down on the bed. I would go to him and he would hug me, and tell me how much he loved me. He would tell me that he hated punishing me, but that I had to learn to behave. My daddy was demonstrably affectionate at a time when many other men of his generation were not affectionate towards their sons. I always knew I was loved.
While I did not know him for very long, my daddy has had a lasting impact on my life. I was very lucky to have him. I look at so many young men today who have no male role model in their lives, and my heart goes out to them. Today, our prisons are full of young men who never had a strong male influence to help mold them into productive and happy men. It is a shame, and a major problem for our society. And it seems to be getting worse instead of better.
I salute all the men who have taken on the toughest job of all, and have risen to the challenge of making their sons and daughters useful members of society. We are all better for it.
Happy Father’s Day.