Dad. Daddy. Pop. Pa. The name doesn’t matter but the character does. TV’s Dad depiction is the guy who just doesn’t get it with the family gathered around the dinner table; sometimes goofy or silly and slightly out of touch. It’s a humorous twist to a real truth about Fatherhood.
“Absent father” is used to describe him whether he lives in the home or not. The irony is that he needs to be an “absent” because he represents the outside world where home bound mother does not venture. (Don’t get caught up in contemporary understanding because these psychological principles do not change. Think “masculine” and “feminine” instead of male/female.)
Mother’s world will always be encapsulated by the four-walled place we call home. Dad’s world is that unknown outside world that is gradually unveiled to growing children. “We know what mom does but what does dad do all day?” is the unspoken question of a young person. Mine rarely travelled behind twelve miles of our home but still represented that awesome risk to leave the home every morning and return tired in time for supper. Mother is the known and Father is the unknown.
If Mother is grace as we hope she will always be then Father is wisdom as we hope he will always be. At five years old I imagined he held awesome powers. He became somewhat lame when I was a high school sophomore but after graduating from college he regained the adjective “awesome.” Did he change? I doubt it.
“Let your mother take care of that,” was my dad’s response to a domestic situation. His life was “out there” somewhere which provided for our means. (Put Mother in the workplace and you’ll still have the same dichotomy.) The parental combination works because it envelopes the two worlds that we often have difficulty enveloping: our personal world and our place within the world. To say it another way, Motherhood is a gift and Fatherhood is a task. Both roles are important and both find it difficult to replace the other while remaining true.
When I began I meant to write it was meant as a prayer for “Father’s Day” as I did for “Mother’s Day” but it’s harder to write. He’s been gone from me for many years but his one sentence responses to my life’s questions and his lingering cigar scents with a hint of “Old Spice” remind me always that there is a bigger world out there than I can ever comprehend. I want to go the thirteenth mile because he showed me the first twelve.