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Being a good father can save a man

A sign advertises Father's Day gifts at Atlanta Home Depot store. | AP file photo

The blessings of fatherhood. Some are clear as a golden morning sun. Others hidden like treasures to be discovered along this sometimes-tedious road of endeavoring to be good fathers.

I know, for instance, the story of a man who began carrying his disabled son through the grueling race known as triathlons because his boy wanted to compete but could not do so on his own.

OPINION

So the father carried his adult son through the swimming portion in an inflatable raft; pedaled with him in tow, then ran the last leg of the grueling race, pushing his son in a cycle in front of him.

“What an amazing thing he is doing for his son,” I thought to myself upon seeing the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt, moved to tears by the father’s devotion.

The story reinforced my belief that being a good father can help save our children’s lives.

Then I learned of the father’s heart disease. That his doctor said that the father taking up training and doing triathlons with his son had apparently opened new capillaries.

So inasmuch as the father had saved his son, being a good father had saved him.

I used to think I was the biggest loser by my own natural father’s desertion by age 4. I later understood that it was my father who lost so much more by his absence. That he missed out on the joys of fatherhood:

The moments of pride. Untold memories of walking with a son and daughter, of being there for school accomplishments and awards. Times of laughter and tears, and teaching your son to ride a bike, hit a ball, or tuck him in at night.

The times of running beside a son or daughter on the cross-country trail or cheering them as they round the track. The times of training them, carrying them, lifting them, standing with their weight on your shoulder-understanding that you are their hope, their coach, counselor, mentor, father, their “Mr. Incredible.”

I came to understand as a father that the sometimes heavy lifting we do, the running and all the sometimes seemingly endless thankless work to help our children succeed, thrive, excel, is our lifeblood. For me, it has created capillaries that have restored life to the wounded heart of an abandoned son.

And I have come to believe that endeavoring to be a good father, to be a presence in the lives of our children rather than an absence, can unexpectedly open a pathway to healing the broken boy inside so many fathers wounded long ago by fatherlessness. I have felt that healing, soothing like a warm blanket over my soul.

And yet, I know that the cycle of paternal absence and neglect continues to wound so many sons and daughters who will grapple for years with the agony of fatherlessness.

This Father’s Day, I am reminded that no father is perfect.

I am also reminded that to be a good father is honor enough in itself and a good and faithful calling. Reminded that our calling as fathers is not contingent upon whether our relationship with the mother of our children endures, neither on what new love, opportunity, challenge, or hardship arises in our lives.

I am reminded of Dick Hoyt’s words about his son who has cerebral palsy, spoken in a documentary: “Rick is my motivator. He inspires me. He’s the one who’s out there competing. I’m just loaning him my arms and my legs…”

I am reminded that’s what fathers do and that the blessings of fatherhood — and its countless treasures — make it worth every moment. Every single one.

Email: Author@johnwfountain.com

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