“Papa was a rolling stone. Wherever he laid his hat was his home. And when he died, all he left us was alone” Sly And The Family Stone
People who know me well, know that I love music, especially anything with a smooth, groove, R&B and soul. As a child of the 70’s, that was one of my family’s favorite songs. My brother, Sister and I used to sing it constantly. I even remember including part of it in one of our “variety shows” we used to perform, with Sister as MC, of course.
We never really thought about the lyrics, because if we did, we might have realized how sad that story was, especially for our own Dad, who’s Papa truly was a “rolling stone” and who died in jail when Daddy was young, leaving his mother broke and with nothing but a 5th grade education in a house with 3 kids and a dirt floor.
The hole he left wasn’t deep, because the story is he wasn’t much of a contributor of anything but misery and heartache when he was home. Grandmother went on to achieve some admirable success, choosing a step dad for my father wasn’t one of them. Buck didn’t fill any hole. He mostly filled a seat at the local pool hall.
Mama’s dad wasn’t a rolling stone, but supposedly a good man, a hard worker who fell ill with pneumonia and died while Grandma was pregnant with Mama. She never got to know him, but did grow up being forced to endure the closeness of 2 terrible step “dads”, who were chosen to fill the hole known as hunger.
I think there were times, most days in fact, when Mama would have been happier eating the old rutabaga soup for dinner during the poor days, than the feasts she received from “Old Man Jones”. They were harder to swallow than his cruelty, because she understood, even at a very young age, the price they were all paying.
Stepdad #2 wasn’t much better than #1, so when he passed, Grandma decided to pass too, on any further “gentleman” callers. By that time, though, her kids were grown and the damage was done. I try not to judge her, because she did what she thought she needed to do to feed her kids, but would they have been better eating rutabagas in peace instead of large spreads of both pain and roast beef? I say yes. I never knew either of my grandfathers, but I do know the pain their absences caused directly and indirectly threw choices subsequently made. I know the pain and repercussions that resulted from the misery inflicted inside the home by my paternal grandfather and the step “granddads” on both sides. It affects me today, and every day. Because those repercussions run down hill through the generations like Beau chasing a wayward pine cone.
But my parent’s painful stories of childhood aren’t unique. I also know the same pain and suffering by many people in my life. And you certainly don’t have to be a news junkie to see it everywhere in our nation and world. There are MANY incredible fathers in the world today. And many men who work hard in the Dad role as uncles, step dads, big brothers, bosses, and volunteers for organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters. There are men who dedicate their whole lives; their time, laughter, tears, and heart to the children in their lives. and it is not without waste.
Children with these role models will be girdled with a love that will cradle them on a foundation of emotional security on which they are far more likely to build successful futures. And while I honor those men today, Father’s Day, I can’t help but feel focused and drawn to thinking about the children who don’t have such men in their lives. I can’t help but think about the children who have no one or reason to celebrate today. Maybe they lost their dad in war for our nation, lost their dad due to illness, their dad is away in prison, they were abandoned by their dad, never had a dad, or live in a home where the conditions require an intervention not celebration. On top of these circumstances, here comes the big annual day to celebrate something they don’t have! How hard is it for these kids seeing all the Father’s Day ads and celebrations everywhere? And for some to be forced to celebrate what is the source of their pain. It only makes the situation that much more excruciating. With the epidemic of fatherless children and child abuse, when do we dedicate a day to the children of these circumstances? A day when we honor THEM and tell them how much THEY matter?
We all know the statistics. We at least all know intellectually how it runs downhill, and we’ll all be buried under the weight of the fall out if we don’t start paying attention to the growing problem. And since it’s a problem that I believe is in part being manufactured, the solution as a society is quite complicated, and not my focal point for today.
Today I want to pay tribute to the children. I want to celebrate the children from birth to 100, who live in, endured and rose out of fatherless and/or abusive homes. I want them to know that their lives are no less valuable or important because they don’t have a father to celebrate or one worth celebrating. I want them to know that while harder, their lives don’t have to be less than, just because their home life is. They still have themselves and the love of many, including me.
Now I’m reminded of another of our family’s favorite songs:
Them that’s got shall have
Them that’s not shall lose
So the Bible said and it still is news
Mama may have, Papa may have
But God Bless the Child that’s got his own
That’s got his own
God Bless the Child