Oh it’s Father’s Day dear father,
And we’re giving you a tie.
It’s not much we know
It’s just our way of showing you
That we think you are a regular guy !
You say that it was nice of us to bother
But it really was a pleasure to fuss !
Because according to our mother your our father,
And that’s good enough for us !
Yes, that’s good enough for us ! written by Harry Ruby, as sung by Groucho Marx
It is a different Father’s Day, from both ends of the spectrum. The day began with a call from my 18 year old daughter, at the Louvre in Paris, standing in front of the painting “Liberty Leads the People”. Just one more symbol I suppose of her emancipation and graduation. I noted the irony and had a wonderful talk with her, although it was a bit one sided as she is doing a lot more exciting things than I am these days.
I then talked to my mother about my own father, confined to a nursing home,and I assume that he will be in that or a similar facility for the balance of his days. This is the first father’s day when I could not call him at home and wish him the best of days. It is a hard pill to swallow, much tougher on my mother and brother, but hard for me none the less. Yet it is inevitable, it comes to all fathers and to all children of those fathers.
The truth of the matter is that my Dad never made a big deal about Father’s Day. The Porter family was not into the lesser holidays. We pulled out the stops for Thanksgiving , Christmas and the Fourth of July, so much so that we seldom had energy for Memorial Day or Labor Day or Mother’s and Father’s Day, or even birthdays. As kids, Halloween and Easter were big deals, although Easter was not really a religious Holiday. The first time I recall hearing my father make a sarcastic remark was on Easter Sunday in the early 60s. He had taken the family to see either “King of Kings” or the “Greatest Story Ever Told”, I can’t recall which. My mother was overcome during the crucifixion scene, prompting my father, sitting in the dark, quiet theatre, to blurt out, “Oh Hell Jay, he’s back again in three days.” This brought rounds of laughter from my family, although not so much from anyone sitting near us.
Age and progressive dementia have robbed my family of the joy of my dad’s sarcasm. But my brother told me that it still surfaces at surprising times. Recently, my father was being given one of those dementia tests that doctors give before they examine you. What’s your name ? “Allen Porter”, Who are you married to ? “Jay Porter”. How many kids do you have ? “You mean just with her ?”. My dad and mom have been married for almost 58 years and we are his only family. I don’t know if the doctor knew that or not.
Once the family was passing through Memphis, Tennessee and my Dad had booked a room in a very seedy part of town. About 12:30 a.m., after the four of us had been in bed for about two hours, there was a drunken knock at our motel door. All of us awoke, started and clenched in terror, except my dad, who rolled over and looked at me and smiled and said “See who it is.” Then he turned back and went back to sleep. This was the same trip which saw us move in for a couple of days on my mother’s aunt who lived above a funeral parlor in Milton, West Virginia, something that my brother and I were somewhat amused by. On the outskirts of Milton, my dad pulled the family car over to the side of the road and parked. He looked back at Clay and I and said, “All right, get it out of your system, I don’t want the hear it after we get there.” My brother and I broke into convulsive laughter and threw out every joke we had been thinking. “Stopping in for a cool one ? “what’s for lunch, cold cuts again ?” “If you go downstairs for a glass of water tonight, don’t worry about waking anyone else up down there.” We got them all out. That night my dad came up to say goodnight and sat on the old double bed with my brother and I. “ “Dad, I said, we really appreciate this vacation.” “Oh, don’t worry about it,” he smiled “ we are eating off the in-laws tonight.”
He is a great man, my Dad. As kind and gentle a man as God ever put on this earth. I am unaware of anyone he ever hurt in life, and I never met anyone who did not speak kindly of him. Happy Father’s Day Dad, thanks for a job so well done. We love you.