Daddy: “Yeah, we all got family needs to think of first.”
That was Joe Bageant’s daddy to a salesman. A daddy who felt pain at not being able to send his son to an art course.
Young Joe thought he wasn’t going to be an artist after all. But he’d still earn a living. “Nobody starves in this country.”
This country being the good ol’ US of A.
But people do starve. There. And fathers struggle. To know. What to do. And how to be good fathers.
Bageant could look back and see the heroic qualities of his father. Over and against an economy and political system that ground him down.
I saw a performance of Death of a Salesman last month. Another man thinking of family first, but tragically so.
Willy Loman, with no good father figure, seeks confirmation that he is taking care of his sons in the right way. But of course he is not.
Even though he wants to become the perfect father. Obsessed he is. With wanting to give his sons a better (monetarily successful) life.
Research shows it is hard for dads to stay in their kids’ lives after divorce or separation but many fathers also stand removed from their children when “happily married”.
Willy Loman on the road. Joe Bageant’s daddy driving trucks.
Many fathers need help to take a more active role in parenting. (Whether they’d accept it is another matter.)
What encouragement do churches offer?
A recent US study shows that behind Easter and Christmas, Mothers Day draws the highest attendance in churches, while Father’s Day found itself at the very end of the list in terms of attendance.
“Either churches are less effective in affirming fathers or families believe Christian fathers don’t value their participation in worship services.”
What about advice from the Bible? Mixed. Kill your children if they curse you?
Role models? Not exactly exemplary: drunken, naked Noah, Lot, Abraham, Jephthah?
Jephthah lived in Gilead. Gilead is the title of a beautifully-written novel by Marilynne Robinson in the form of a dying priest’s letter to his young son — a deep meditation on fatherhood.
This month Insights looks at fatherhood. How it is good for men and for children. Fathers mightn’t be essential but research often shows that they should be included and their needs taken into account when delivering programs and services for families and designing policies aimed at enhancing children’s social, emotional and physical health.
Who’s to say how responsive Willy or Joe’s dad would have been to targeted parenting activities. But what if someone was there to “engage” with them?
If you have a tolerance for colourful language, look up Joe’s website and read “Worker rights: No balls, no gains”.
He recalls his father struggling to support his family. Read his other essays or his books and see how Joe had a very broad sense of who is “on the side of truth and beauty”; how “this included a far wider variety of people than the working-class Appalachians for whom he sought to speak, when no-one else would.”