It will be Father’s Day this Sunday.  Or, for most dads, it will just be another Sunday. But do not fret; men are stoic, and strong, and stony, so whether our kids will remember Father’s Day or not will not matter to us. We know its Fathers’ Day, and having a day named after us is good enough.

It is funny how we all get weepy and maudlin over Mothers’ Day. Maybe it is because we know that moms spent hours heaving and groaning, sucking on ice chips, breathing like locomotives and finally screaming for an epidural, before We, as children, entered the world.  I guess that after someone goes through that much pain for you, you owe them – forever – because that is a lot of pain to pay back. And, yes, as always when it comes to mothers, there is always guilt.  Like, how I feel guilty that I did not  write an Ode to My Mother on my blog – or make a popsicle stick planter for her (again). But I did send a card, and it Is too late to write that blog now, so I will move on.

But, seriously, I will whine a little. With all that fuss and bother and concern about Moms, is it fair to just pay lip service to us Dads?  I mean, we can’t help it that we can’t share the physical pain of childbirth. It is an undeniable truth that every father would trade places if he could.  (Without a doubt, right lads?)  And do not underestimate the spiritual and emotional agony a father feels as he witnesses child-birth. He is an outsider and on top of that, his beloved is probably cussing him out with the vocabulary of a salty, sea-hardened buccaneer.  How do you respond to a statement like, “You are NEVER touching me again!!!!”  Really, if it wasn’t for daddy’s swimmers, mothers could not make that kind of sacrifice.  Shouldn’t fathers be showered with some kind of “collateral glory”?

Evidently not. Society does not hold that kind of reverence for Dads.  We have a love-hate thing for dads. We admire them, we mostly respect them, but we always mock them – though always with love.  I mean, my Dad has earned the nickname, “Chipsy.”  Why?  I can’t remember – I think it included a bag of Lays and his ability to always score the last ones.

And while we will all think of the stereotypical Mom as caring, and nurturing, and dependable, all the Dads I can remember from popular culture are all caricatures. Don’t buy it? Follow me…I will show you what I mean:

The lovable grumpy, bigoted, rude, blustery Dad – Archie Bunker or Fred Sanford. Now Archie and Fred are the salt-n-pepper of the 1970s hey-days of racial jokes and verbal abuse. Not an episode went by where the son or son-in-law was not yelled at or insulted.  “You dummy…”, or “Hey, Meathead…” were the usual refrains. Though constantly complaining and criticising, always inflexible and dogmatic, usually cutting and ribald, they still managed to find a soft spot. Unbelievable in hindsight, we sort of loved them, faults and all. I guess deep down, despite their flaws, they cared and did right.  Sort of like our Dads.

The Cartoon Buffoon Dad.  Now in early cartoons, the fathers were just honest, simple nincompoops: Fred Flintstone and George  Jetson come to mind easily, but I am sure there are more.  Honestly, I would throw Herman Munster into that mix, though – as someone will undoubtedly highlight –  he was not a cartoon. These dads were fun-loving, hen-pecked, but basically hard-working Joes. And we were content to giggle at their Water Buffalo Lodge hi-jinks or marital faux-pas. But then Matt Groening went and introduced Mr. H. Simpson to the world, changing everything.  All of a sudden, loafing, and gluttony, and ignorance and stupidity became fatherly attributes. He was a cartoon version of Al Bundy.  And if that was not enough, The Family Guy just bumped it up a few levels.  Peter Abbot moved fatherhood into a whole new zone as he took parental advice from a dog; and while some say that it is “rude, crude and deliciously wrong”, but I must admit that sometimes I just miss the point.  Maybe it is the Dad in me who shudders instead of seeing the satire – or maybe I am just getting old.

The Tragic But Heroic Figure of a Dad.  Now we have to go a little ways back for this, back to the responsible days of the late 60s, and early 70s – before the Love Generation, back when men wore ties to a weeknight family dinner. Who did not want Eddie to find his widowed father Tom a new wife in the “Courtship of Eddie’s Father”.  And, carrying on with the single father theme, I will add, “Whatcha talking about Willis?”  In Different Strokes, a rich widower adopts orphaned black kids. What noble patriarchal sacrifice.  And lastly, what about Fred McMurray, as the hapless Dad who was busy raising three boys on his own.  Wait a minute.  What an outstanding great segue to the next category…

The Calm – sometimes fashionable – Sensible and Reliable Dad. Mike Brady – period.  Whether it was Greg or Marcia or Peter or Jan or Bobby or Cindy, Mike was always there in his fashionable jacket and tie, or bell bottoms and sideburns, to dispense wise words and sage advice as he cleaned up the family crisis in the mandated 23 minutes (7 minutes for commercials). And following in his footsteps were Steven Keaton, doling out loving left-wing values to his money-driven son played by a young, young, young Michael J Fox, and the mugging, sweater-wearing, jello-pudding eating Cliff Huxtable. There were very few houses that did not tune into the weekly antics of the Huxtables…I think it was really Lisa Bonet who drew the crowds (before she went all Bohemian in that crazy movie with Mickey Rourke).  And again, in the honoured “calm-sometimes-fashionable-sensible- and-reliable-Dad” template, a fable of Aesopic magnitude would emerge from the 23 minute dilemma, and a heart-warming and amusing ending would leave all chuckling and hugging each other. Just like life – right?

The Multiple Dads.  Recently there has been the emergence of the two Dads.  Originally the concept was the cinematic by-product of the women who ”loved” two men (with exact opposite peronalities and lifestyles), had a baby, and never divulged the identity of the real father to anyone.  The theme has now morphed in the 21st century with homosexual fathers doing admirable jobs in raising well-adjusted normal kids.  Just look at Glee and Modern Families.

So many role models to guide us – some good, some bad. And I am sure you will ask, with all the examples to follow, which kind of Dad did I become?  All I can say is, “Hopefully a good one.” One who found the right blend of authoritarian and mentor and provider and playmate and teacher and coach and comedian and the million other things that a Dad should be.

I hope that is what I did, because I had a great “real-life” role model – my Dad.

Just thinking about his life experiences and challenges have always provided me inspiration when I needed it. As a boy, he lost his father, and raised his younger brother. As a young man in India, he worked as a farmer, then a policeman, then a teacher, before packing up and moving to the UK to start a family – one that he supported through a variety of blue-collar jobs. He then decided to seek a better life by packing up again and going to Canada – on his own for three years – working and scrimping to save enough money to give his children a better future.  He raised a family in Toronto as he upgraded his education, part-time over 7 years.  He finally earned a Commerce Degree from University, concurrently working a series jobs as a lathe operator, a cab-driver, a financial clerk, and finally as an accountant. And it all paid off as he ended his career as a senior financial officer for the Government of Ontario several years ago.

And in between, he took the time to teach me to skate, to dribble a soccer ball, to toboggan, to hammer a nail, and to grow tomatoes; he taught me the value of fruit and fibre and daily walks. He taught me to study hard and to write effectively and to be confident when speaking to groups. He taught me to be respectful, and hard-working, and caring.  He taught me how to play games and forced me to lose gracefully and patiently – the latter as he sang his ridiculous victory song after a game of chess or Monopoly or Risk…”Loser the Packer, Loser the Packer…”.  He even gave me a sense of humour – the finest gift ever.

And he has given me so many memories…stupid hats at birthday parties, fantastic days at Sandbanks Beach as we swam and barbecued and played, impromptu ukulele songs (he does not know how to play the ukulele), our walks together, our constant debates over homeopathy and the healing power of garlic and ginger; and when I was a teenager, his amusing, but constant surveillance for the evil after-effects of Chinese herbs and drink. (Chinese herbs were his euphemism for marijuana – it took me a little while to figure that one out).

But it was not all happiness and glee….

When I was little, I can remember quivering when hearing the refrain, “wait until your Father comes home.” I can also recall the many times that I sat in my room during my teens – furious, frustrated, and stymied.  At those times, I thought to myself, “How can a grown man know so little about the world?” Ironically, it was only a mere four or five years later, after I graduated from university – no longer a boy but a young man – that I remember thinking, “Wow, has my Dad ever learned a lot in 5 years.”  Perspective is a funny thing, eh?  It is remarkable, in retrospect, just how much Dads know.  I wish I had realised that earlier. It would have saved a lot of painful “trial and error”.

So as I think of my Dad, and reflect on my Dad-ness, I will also think of all the fathers out there.  I wish you all a very happy Father’s Day: one full of children’s love and care, and a BBQ and a beer or two, a tie or a bottle or Old Spice or whatever else floats your father’s day boat.  I hope you enjoy the short 24 hours of parental royalty. Relish it; revel in it.

Because on 18 July, Mom ascends back onto the throne for the next 365 days – unless you can learn how to give birth.

Happy Father’s Day.