Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fantabulous Fathers

I would “do” baths.

When my twin boys were infants, baths were my thing. Sure, Mommy dressed, fed, entertained, educated, enlightened, distracted, protected, and potty-trained, but when it came to shampoo—Daddy was all over that.

Unfortunately, the boys didn’t seem to get this. More often than not, after the bathing process, my attempts to towel them off were met with “I want Mommy to do it!” I just couldn’t close the deal.

Still feeling a lingering tinge of “unsung hero” after experiences like that, I thought I’d use this space to commemorate great dads from television, movies, music, and literature:

*The Dad in Dan Fogelberg’s “Leader of the Band”: As my wife says, “That guy is the antithesis of the father in (Harry Chapin’s) ‘Cats in the Cradle.’”

*Tom Bradford (Eight is Enough): I can actually picture the script: Tom sits in den, reading newspaper. Child comes to door: “Hey, dad. Got a minute?” Tom, putting down paper: “Sure, (child’s name). Have a seat.” How many times per episode do you think an exchange like that happened? Ten, twenty times? Writing for that show must have been the easiest gig in town.

* Ned Flanders (The Simpsons): Sure, he’s played for an chump, and the show satirizes his uber-Christian values, but honestly, is there a better dad in Springfield than Ned Flanders? No wonder Bart chose Flanders in The Simpsons Movie. Howdy-diddily-doo, neighbor!

*Mr. Drummond (Diff’rent Strokes): Obviously, he was a nice guy: a “man of means,” he adopted two boyz from the ‘hood who had “nothing but the jeans.” But any dad who didn’t spank Arnold, even after the 8,000th time he used that annoying “Whachoo talkin’ ‘bout?” line, must be a bona fide saint.

* Odysseus (The Odyssey): Try, for a moment, to overlook the fact that Odysseus was away on business a lot (i.e. for nineteen years) and that he shacked up with different ladies during his absence, while his wife Penelope dutifully and steadfastly spurned the advances of the suitors. Forget that for a moment, and focus on how, at the end of the epic, Odysseus and his son Telemachus not only team up to slaughter all the suitors but also force the girlfriends of the suitors to clean all the blood and guts off the furniture, before they execute them too. That’s some nice father-son bonding right there.

*Jor-El (from Superman): He put his son in a spaceship and sent him to Earth, where he had powers he never could have had on his own home planet. Really, at its core, Jor-El’s story is a metaphor for all parents who want to see their kids have a better life than they had. Of course, Jor-El’s planet of Krypton eventually exploded. That’s where the metaphor breaks down a little.

*George Jetson (The Jetsons): Jane swiped his wallet, Rosie the robot-maid gave him sass, and Astro the dog entangled him on that weird treadmill-thing—and he still got up everyday to sell Spacely Sprockets!

* Edward Bloom (Big Fish): I almost didn’t want to include this example, because Ed and his son Will had a strained relationship throughout most of the movie. But by the end, Will realizes what a great man his father is and passes on his father’s stories to his own son. The movie truly celebrates fathers and sons—and the late Matthew McGrory (the big giant guy). Matt, we hardly knew ya!

*Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird): There are good fathers. There are great fathers. Then there’s Atticus Finch. Yeah, he lets his kids call him by his first name, which is kinda weird. And yeah, he gets his son a bee-bee gun. But he teaches his kids such important life lessons about equality and courage and humility. A few years ago, the American Film Institute named Atticus Finch the Number One Movie Hero of all time. To me, his heroics as a lawyer are secondary to his heroics as a father.

Happy Father’s Day, everyone. And to all the dads out there, take heart: I bet even Superman’s dad had trouble with baths some days.

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