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Volume xviii, Issue 24 ~ June 17 to June 23, 2010

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A Dime’s Worth of Father’s Day Wisdom

Dad carries a heavy load, and look how we reward him

We celebrate this Father’s Day with an Everyman story. We like such stories. Whether the narrators are Everyman, Everywoman or Everychild, they show us so many faces of our shared human nature. Usually, we find out how much we have in common across our differences.

Everychild, for example, wrote our Mother’s Day feature story, with Mrs. Smith’s second graders at Arnold Elementary School writing and illustrating the good deeds of their mothers. Read that story, and you couldn’t help but think back on how grand your mommy seemed when you were eight.

This week, assorted children in the 10 most common decades of life reflect on lessons they learned from their fathers. The youngest child is three and a half. The oldest, E.B. Smith, turned 90 on May 1 and is a father, grandfather and great-grandfather — even as he’s still a son.

“Son, that stuff will never make you a dime,” his father, the entrepreneurial E.B. senior, told him at the announcement of his college plans to study sociology and history.

Had my father, Gene Martin, similarly dismissed my studies of literature, I could now tell him that’s where I met Everyman, who is the title character of a 500-year-old morality play about the light baggage you get to carry on your journey with death.

Instead, my father seldom said a word of disapproval. He did, however, leave me convinced that in his book I never had a lick of sense. Writing stories did something to redeem his opinion of me, and starting a newspaper did a bit more.

That’s the kind of reverie these Everyman stories send you into. Jump in, and soon you’re thinking about how your own experiences stack up against the life stories you’re reading. Comparison is nourishing food for thought. One or the other of these stories is going to get you going.

Who doesn’t rue their father’s disapproving words? Or crave his approving ones? For though silence on your faults ranks high as a paternal virtue, too much silence reads as indifference.

Dad carries a heavy load, perhaps even more than Mother. I’ll tell you one reason I say that. I asked many contributing writers — about two dozen — to nominate people to share stories about their fathers’ lessons. Many reported back that few of the people they asked — typically people they admired and wanted to know more about — wanted to do any thinking or talking about their fathers.

Still, we persevered, and under my goading our writers came up with our 10 storytellers for 10 decades. Only one, Margaret Tearman, flaunted the story rules to tell us her own father’s lesson. I can’t reproach her for that. Her perfect essay on her father’s lesson gave us this story concept. Plus, she also found us the delightful pair of Weisburgh girls to represent life’s first decade.

Like Margaret and her Weisburgh girls, many of our storytellers have grand things to say about their fathers and the lessons they taught.

I’m pretty sure that Ariel Brumbaugh, who writes this week’s Bay Reflection, has not only learned good lessons from her father, Jack Brumbaugh, but also heard just about the right balance of praise and restraint from him. My suspicion is based on having known Ariel, whose family are my nearest neighbors, for 20 of her almost 24 years. Having followed the artist’s less-traveled path himself, Jack has allowed Ariel her self-determination in choosing a poet’s life. (It’s mother Gail Martinez who prays Ariel will choose a more practical road.)

So what does Ariel have to say about her admirable father? She puts him in the poetic company of slugs. Read her Reflection, and you’ll see. On the other hand, we’re printing her poem in Bay Weekly, which will earn her at least a dime.

I wish I could hear your stories of lessons learned. I hope you’re telling them to yourselves. Perhaps you’ll share some with me, too.

Sandra Olivetti Martin

editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com

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from the Editor