The Fatherhood Fraternity
By Azher Quader*
To most of us who belong to this fraternity, membership comes pretty easy, with no fees, no strings attached, in due course of time and almost always with plenty of anticipation but no preparation. Once within its fold, comes the gradual realization of the awesome and often demanding responsibilities that go along with fatherhood. Many of us learn on the job as we move forward.
Some go through a few books and classes but for the most part lose it all when the time comes for reality checks. Those little leaguers are quite good at throwing curved balls at us and we realize soon enough that to stay in the game we have to think pretty fast. With time many of us will adopt our own modus operandi to survive. Some become playful playmates, others become authority figures while still others choose to disengage themselves, recoil in a corner claiming more important responsibilities of the world and let motherhood take over and rule.
With kindergarten comes welcome relief. A free spirit is going to school, get educated and tamed. The audacity of hope! Then comes high school graduation, a moment of pride, followed by admission to college, a period of pain as the bills start arriving in tormenting regularity. They say with college comes freedom, the end of paternal responsibility, the kid is no longer a kid, is a grown up person. They lie. The rules of engagement change, the headaches increase, the heartaches grow.
It is a new dawn, moving into the dorm, cramming a houseful into a roomful, boom box, books, bike and bed. Then it is our power of belief that sustains us. Faith in the unseen as they call it. Long distance fatherhood requires imagination and a lot of talk time. Reminders we make - to read more, watch grades and party less - rarely register. By now most of us have no clue as to what our pride and joy are studying. There are myriad courses to choose from and someone they call as their counselor and adviser has become their soul mate. We are left out to imagine and to believe.
All we see are reports with some numbers and some alphabets. As college concludes, yesterday’s kids arrive at our doors as today’s motivated citizens, ready to do battle against all the dragons and demons of a perceived evil society. Some are more earthly and grab the first job that comes their way and go on to become wage earners, to the delight and the relief of their aging dads. Others decide to study more with the promise of making more at some distant date in the future. While we had barely emerged from the poverty imposed by our kid’s undergraduate education, it is graduate education’s turn now to push us back on to the brinks of bankruptcy. Although we complain about our financial fatigue, yet secretly we are proud of our kids’ educational vigor in pursuing these demanding studies.
Somewhere around this time fatherhood often makes acquaintance with matrimony. Wedding songs, videos, limousine and honeymoon mark the end of our fatherhood chores and hopefully the beginning of theirs fairly soon.
From the nervous initiates to the confident veterans, clearly the fraternity of fatherhood includes dads of all descriptions. There are the super dads and the dead-beat dads. There are the bio dads, the foster dads and the adoptive dads. There are the busy dads and the absent dads. There are the angry dads and the happy dads. There are the disconnected dads and the visiting dads. The fraternity embraces them all. On Fathers Day it recognizes them all and salutes them all.
There is however a group among us that deserves a special recognition. While millions of us are feasted and fussed over by our sons and daughters this day and while millions of us can hug and kiss and hold them in our tight embrace, there are a few who will not experience this joy and this happiness today, nor ever more in the future. For they are the dads of those 3000 plus young men and women who served on the battlegrounds of Iraq and gave the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of their country. Our heart goes out to them.
No pain can ever be greater than the pain of losing a son or a daughter in the fullness of youth. No words of comfort can console, no embrace of love can ease, no expression of gratitude can relieve the hurt that they must feel and the sadness that they must endure.
This is not the place for us to debate the rights and wrongs of this controversial war. This is neither the place for us to question how much blood of our sons and daughters needs to be spilled to satisfy the thirst of our leaders for cheap oil. Neither is it the time to question our claims that we are winning this war on terror when all we see is chaos and carnage, death and destruction. No, that will be for history to judge when the bloodshed will cease and the fires will burn down.
Today we will say a silent prayer for those special fathers in our fraternity who quietly suffer a loss that can never be replaced and whose patriotism bars them from asking the questions that can never be answered. May He give them patience and provide them healing.
May God bless our families too as we thank Him for the gift of our children.
*Executive Director, Community Builders Chicago