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Ruminations on Father’s Day

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Ruminations on Father’s Day

By Steven A. Smith

Family can be complicated.

Life too, of course.

Life is not linear. We live in fits and starts, beginnings and ends and ends that become new beginnings. There are life lessons learned and life lessons ignored. We fall in love and fall out of love. The path is crooked and each of us follows a different course.

Over time we learn there are few constants. Mostly, we learn to adapt.

But family is constant. And family is linear. Most of us can trace a straight line from the family members who came before to ourselves and then to our children and grandchildren.

And that is how I think of Father’s Day. Mother’s Day, too. Yes, they are manufactured holidays. But they also are a celebration of linear family.

I knew my maternal grandfather and loved him dearly. I wear fedoras because of him. I smoke cigars as he did. I use the same brand of cologne. I never knew my paternal grandfather. He died when my father was a toddler. But I see the physical resemblance.

Abraham Smith/Contributed

I knew my father, of course. I knew the best of him and the weakest parts. I share his love of old music and old movies. And as I grow older, I see his face in the mirror every morning and hear his voice when I speak.

From grandfathers, to father, to me. A straight line. And now to my son and grandchildren, toddler boys.

My son never knew my grandfathers. He knew my father, though not well. Yet, I see both in him – when he sits, talks, or loses his temper, when he hoists his own toddler on his shoulders. When he speaks, I hear my voice, and theirs.

This week, with the pandemic momentarily waning, we visited my son and his family in Ohio. As any grandfather will admit in moments of honest self-reflection, there is satisfaction in watching a son struggle to manage two toddlers whose relentless energy and mercurial tempers challenge him just as he challenged me.

And the toys underfoot! We contributed to that clutter with a bag full of loud, silly trinkets from Boo Radley. The Whoopee Cushion was a huge hit.

Sam Sommers/Contributed

“Take that, son, now you know.”

But it is the physical resemblances that are so striking. I have grown to look like my paternal grandfather and my father. My son’s baby pictures could be mine. And his oldest, five in November, is our clone, both in appearance and demeanor.

As I sat and watched him play Captain America or Ninja Turtle, it was hard to hold back the emotions. My fathers and grandfathers are gone, and I will be gone someday, too. But I will live on in my son and he will live on in his and so on. A straight line, a family line.

And that is what Father’s Day is about or should be. The father becomes the son and the son becomes the father.

And all of us love a good Whoopee Cushion. That is family and, when you think about it, it is not that complicated. Happy Father’s Day.

About Steven A Smith

Steven A. Smith is clinical associate professor emeritus in the School of Journalism and Mass Media at the University of Idaho having retired from full time teaching at the end of May 2020.

Smith is former editor of The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington. As editor, Smith supervised all news and editorial operations on all platforms with a staff ranging from more than 140 in 2002 to 104 at the time of his resignation in October 2008. Prior to joining The Spokesman-Review, Smith was editor for two years at The Statesman Journal, a Gannett newspaper in Salem, Oregon, and was for five years editor and vice president of The Gazette, a Freedom Communications newspaper in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

He is a graduate of the Northwestern University Newspaper Management Center Advanced Executive Program and a mid-career development program at Duke University. He holds an MA in communication from The Ohio State University where he was a Kiplinger Fellow, and a BS in journalism from the University of Oregon.

Smith serves on the SpokaneFāVS Board.

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