Posted: Friday, June 13, 2014 6:00 am
Tucked away in my memory bank of happy thoughts is a time early in our marriage when my wife and I were visiting her parents in Midland. Her father was always generous to us, but on this occasion he did something that surprised me.
By itself, it wasn’t a major financial outlay, but it came after a series of more substantial things he had done. Not all of them involved opening his billfold.
I remember telling him that I hoped to pay him back someday by being the same type of parent to our children. I made a point of telling my own parents the same thing.
So, it happens that Americans prepare to observe Father’s Day. Too often, the role of a loving father in families is taken too lightly, despite a host of studies that emphasize the importance of Dad in the lives of children. Fathers understand the task can be overwhelming, and the poor performance reviews we give ourselves make accepting accolades awkward.
This week, while looking for something unrelated, I found a four-year-old article written about James McCartney, the father of Sir Paul McCartney. At age 71 (he turns 72 next Wednesday), the former Beatle continues to draw huge crowds to concerts. But it all began at home. McCartney credits his father with inspiring him to express himself musically.
When the Beatles were struggling, James McCartney encouraged the quartet to rehearse at their house. Some of the Beatles’ early hits were written there. His parents were also the inspiration for some of Sir Paul’s songs.
In 1966, when his father reached his 64th birthday, Paul dusted off a tune he had written at age 16, and “When I’m Sixty-Four” became a standard. His 2012 album “Kisses on the Bottom” is recognized as a tribute to songs he associates with his father, his father’s generation and his family’s sing-alongs when he was a child. Also, his mother, Mary, is mentioned in “Let It Be.”
It’s ironic that McCartney, a musical and cultural trendsetter during an era of anti-establishment sentiment and generational revolt, was the product of a loving home. So too were all but one of the Beatles. John Lennon was the exception.
That’s not to say members of the band never did “color outside the lines” of polite society. As a prim and proper teenager in the 1960s, I was slow to jump on the Beatles bandwagon. However, my piano teacher in elementary and junior high school brought me a copy of the Beatles’ first album as a gift after I spent several days in the hospital.
She said while obscured by the screams of girls in nationally television audiences, the music the band was making had a classic structure, and that it should stand the test of time.
Paul McCartney was, of course, only half of the most significant composing team of their generation, if not all of modern music. Plus, he was one-fourth of the legendary group who put those compositions into the soundtrack of most of our lives. That point was proven to me at the grocery store last week, when I heard two women who could easily be my mother’s age quietly singing along with “Michelle” as it played on the intercom.
McCartney is but one example of a highly accomplished individual who publicly recognizes the role his father had in achieving his success.
Whether they are music stars, professional people, scientists, hourly laborers, or one of millions of non-celebrities who helps form the backbone of our society, the majority of them will be thanking their fathers this weekend for everything they’ve done. If those Dads are still alive to hear their words, it’s even better.
After several weeks of being bombarded with advertisements for electric drills and cologne, we find the question remains unanswered for many: What do I get Dad for Father’s Day?
I’ll say this. Regardless how much a man might achieve in life, most fathers find more satisfaction in watching a son or daughter attain their own happiness and success – however they define it. The greatest gift of all, then, would be to look at them and say with pride, “That’s my kid!”
I’m thankful I’ve been getting that kind of gift for years.