Father’s Day

You think I am brave because I carry a gun; well, your fathers are much braver because they carry responsibility, for you, your brothers, your sisters, and your mothers. And this responsibility is like a big rock that weighs a ton. It bends and it twists them until it finally buries them under the ground. And there’s nobody who says they have to do this. They do it because they love you.
—Bernardo O’Reilly (Charles Bronson) in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960)


My father died in 1973.  He was 55.  I was 22.  He had made a point of watching The Wizard of Oz annual TV presentations with me from when it was first broadcast in 1956.  The first year I was away at college, 1969, and not keeping track of TV schedule listings, I was shocked walking into the student center one evening and finding a large group gathered around a TV set.  The Wizard of Oz was on!  I rushed to a nearby wall of pay phones and called home to see if Daddy knew and was watching anyway without me being there.  He was, and was wondering if I knew if it was on also.  I told him to think of me while he watched, and I would do the same.  Then I told him I loved him.  He replied, “Same here, son.”  I detected a break in his voice.  That was the nearest he ever came to saying, “I love you.”  He could never handle that word— love, but at that moment I knew for sure that he did.  Every year when we had watched Dorothy say goodbye to all her Oz friends, tears would run down my cheeks.  I would glance at Dad, and spy tears in his eyes also.  Aside from that annual occasion, the only time I saw my dad really weep was in 1971, while watching The Homecoming: A Christmas Story.  (The basis for The Waltons TV series.)  Dad grew up in a very rural area and probably identified with John-Boy in that Depression era setting and age bracket.  So I learned via movies that Dad’s tears meant deep love for family and friends that, while could not be spoken of aloud, could not be doubted or broken.  My only regret is that I did not hug him as tight as I could during The Homecoming, but at the time, I was fearful that I would embarrass him by drawing attention to his tears.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.  I still love you.