Viewpoint: A field full of fathers

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Before I begin, I must apologize to all the women in my life, particularly my mother, for not writing a column for Mother’s Day. Let’s just say I dropped the ball on that one.

The Proclamation on the Family declares, “(F)athers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families.”

Sometimes, we can believe “the necessities of life” to mean the monetary necessities and not the emotional and spiritual support fathers provide.

The stereotypes label men as pigs and emotionally distant. Amid stereotypes, we forget the compassion and kindness the men in our lives offer.

In 1994, President Howard W. Hunter said, “Tender expressions of love and affection toward children are as much the responsibility of the father as the mother.”

Just as Mother’s Day is a celebration of the women in our lives, mothers or not, this Sunday is a day to celebrate the wonderful men in our lives who have defied stereotypes.

My maternal grandfather passed four years before I was born, but has had a profound influence on me. He left high school at the age of 17 to support his younger sisters. He raised seven wonderful children and was a devoted husband. From the day he met her until Alzheimer’s stole his memory, he called my grandmother his angel. From him, I have learned of true love and family devotion.

My paternal grandfather is a rock — the quiet patriarch of our family. He went fishing with me countless summer mornings despite the fact that I am horrible at fishing. He constantly serves, loading and unloading his truck for family members, ward members and anyone else moving. He does it all with a level of patience and humility I hope to aspire to.

Bill Wilson is my parent’s late landlord. We moved into their apartment in Maryland after a very unpleasant move. Bill opened his home and heart to my parents and me. He and his wife invited us over for dinner, cheered for me at track meets and came to my graduation. He taught me to love everyone I met and to welcome people with open arms.

Brother Meyer was, and in many ways continues to be, my home teacher. For as long as I can remember, he’d show up at our door with a lesson and usually some new gadget. He nurtured my siblings and the youth in the ward. Brother Meyer and his wife never were able to have children, but that didn’t stop them from being some of the best parents I know.

Two years ago, I was adopted by another father, my father-in-law Matt. He’s always up for an adventure whether it be rock climbing or and early morning hike. He reads my articles and routinely sends me interesting bit of news as possible “fodder” for my next column. With my own father 2,000 miles away, it’s nice to know I have a father just an hour away.

Finally, there’s my daddy. More than anyone, I credit my father with my love of the outdoors and books. He sparked my imagination with fairy tales about a friendly sneezing dragon and an unconventional spotted lizard. He helped me build forts and fairy palaces. He introduced me to John Steinbeck, Ray Bradbury, J. M. Barrie and countless others. My father has never been rich in monetary terms, but he has been rich in the love he has freely given to his children. I love and miss him more than anything.

This list is not meant to brag of the men in my life, but rather to show that we can find wonderful examples of fatherhood in the men around us.

Some of us have lost our fathers. Some have passed on. Others may not have risen above stereotypes. Whatever the case, this Father’s Day we can celebrate the wonderful men around us who are examples of what good men and fathers should be.

This Father’s Day, and in our everyday lives, perhaps it’s time to tweak the traditional role of our fathers. Perhaps, “the necessities of life” includes much more than shelter, food and monetary needs. Perhaps, fathers are the men in our lives who provide us with the love and support that are the true “necessities of life.”

Katie Harmer is the opinion editor for The Universe. This viewpoint represents her opinions and not necessarily those of BYU, its administration or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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