By Virginia ‘Ginya’ Carnahan, APR, CPRC – Dattoli Cancer Center & Brachytherapy Research Institute
I had an interesting conversation back in May, on Mothers’ Day. My friend, who is a bit of a protagonist, was going on about gender equality and such, and suggested that in order not to offend anyone, we should eliminate Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day in exchange for the gender-neutral “Parents Day.” Hmm … started me thinking. I believe there is a Grandparents’ Day but no Grandmothers’ or Grandfathers’ Day. Maybe the folks who established Grandparents’ Day were ahead of the curve! While we are at it, what about Uncles’ Day and Aunts’ Day? Who is it that promulgates these days anyway? I suspect it is the greeting card and florist industries.
Consulting the ever popular Wikipedia, I did a little research on the history of Fathers’ Day. Fathers’ Day has been celebrated in Catholic Europe since the Middle Ages, on March 19 – St. Joseph’s Day. The first American reference came from Fairmont, West Virginia, in 1908 when Grace Golden Clayton was mourning the loss of her father in the Monongah Coal Mine Disaster, where 362 men (250 fathers) were killed in an explosion. She had proposed July 5 as the day, however that selection was soon forgotten as other activities and holidays (notably July 4th) greatly overshadowed her tribute day to her father.
Other attempts at establishing a permanent Fathers’ Day commemoration also failed: 1911 in Chicago (turned down), 1912 in Vancouver, WA also withered; 1915 saw an organized campaign sponsored by the Lions Clubs International, in honor of a member named Harry C. Meek, establishing the third Sunday in June as the official holiday. At least that day stuck.
We all know that the lion’s share of parental acknowledgement occurs in May for the Moms. (The two most popular days for sending flowers are Valentine’s Day and Mothers’ Day.) Poor dads – as Rodney Dangerfield often said, “I can’t get no respect.” So when June 18 rolls around, is there anything we can do level this playing field a little?
There are the typical “manly” gifts of sports items, tools, electronics – maybe some after-shave. I know many women relish in a spa day gift, but how many men get excited about a massage, facial and pedicure? Maybe they should give it a try. Get a “new lease on life” with handsome toes and a smooth complexion?
My father has been gone for many, many years, but if he was still on this earth I think I’d like to honor him with a special experience rather than a bottle of “smell good” or a baseball cap that would never see sunlight, much less a stadium!
If I could I’d like to take him for a drive in the country, where we could re-live some happy memories. He would remind me of silly things I did as a child. I’d recall sitting at the dinner table listening to his stories of growing up in The Great Depression. We would stop at an old fashioned drugstore (if one could be found), and order grilled cheese sandwiches and real milk shakes from the soda fountain. Later we would pull up alongside a stream, leave the air conditioned cool interior of my car and sit in the dappled shade for a while, listening to the chuckling sound of the water and the songs being sung by the birds. We’d have to help each other up when it was time to go. Brush off our pants and head back to the car and on home to reality.
Yes, I’d love to have a day with my dad once again.
Those of you who still have fathers around, I encourage you to plan some one-on-one time with them. It doesn’t have to be on June 18, but sometime and make it soon. Call him up. Say, “Dad, I want to see you!” He may answer, “Why? What now?” Just let him know you want to simply visit. You need to support and nourish the relationship with your father. It may have gotten strained somewhere in the past. Forget the reason – let it go! Begin again today.
I know some fathers who secretly ache for the chance cellphone call or quick email from distant children. So many of our families are no longer “nuclear” but are spread across the nation and globe. An opportunity for a Skype session would be a much better gift than another tie or sleeve of golf balls. Let’s make good use of the technology we have to bridge the distances between us. It can make both parties feel good!
I’ll step down from my melodramatic soapbox now and just throw in a little hard news health advice for fathers (and sons). Guys – it is summertime now. Remember to put on the sunscreen and take along a couple of bottles of water for your outdoor activities. Don’t forget insect repellant while you’re at it.
Remember while celebrating (and in your day-to-day lives) moderation in all things, including food and drink. Get some physical exercise every day!
Don’t always park in the closest space to the grocery door. Park out in the open spaces and walk a little. Get in the pool and swim with the kids or grandkids. Throw the Frisbee for 10 minutes with your dog.
Make an annual physical appointment with your family doctor. The big killers of American men today can often be avoided by changing your behavior a little.
Take as good care of your body and mind as you do of your car. Both can take your far if they are tuned up and running well.
Happy Fathers’ Day to all!
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