Hemingway called his dad, a medical doctor, “my old man.”
During my childhood, when Hemingway was still a living Nobel Prize-winning writer, it seemed just about every boy called his dad “my old man.” It sounded neat, and we all wanted to be neat.
So, was it a Hemingway influence? Perhaps, but if I remember correctly, most lads also referred to any male in authority then as “the old man.”
In the military, the commander is always known as “the old man.” Example: “Better do what the old man says or end up in the brig.”
On Sunday June 16, we can give our dads — our “old men” — an official and deserved pat on the back. We also can give the special day a thumb’s up. This year, Father’s Day, as an official U.S. observance, will turn 100 years old.
In the big scheme of things, fathers are not up there on the same plane as mothers. Moms are truly special. We can hug and kiss our moms. We can unload on them our heart-breaking problems.
With dads, it’s a handshake or a hug, at most, with a question like, “Will the Braves beat the Brewers tonight?” We rarely mention any personal troubles, especially those involving feelings, or seek emotional advice.
Men don’t like all that touchy-feely stuff, the personal inquiries, especially when others are around listening or watching.
Dads teach their sons and daughters to stand firm and strong, to speak up, to look people in the eye. If it involves punishment, take it like a man. The first one who blinks is the one who loses.
Yes, dads are always saying, while moms are always doing and listening. Dads tell us to get our act together. Moms hug us to let us know mercy is in order when we mess up.
Ready for a weird fact? It was President Nixon, yes, old “Tricky Dick” himself, who made Father’s Day a federal holiday in 1972. The old boy did something right, and since then the special day has been in full swing.
Nixon could have been a great father to our nation, like he was to his two daughters, but his paranoia and nasty tricks turned him into just another leader who did not rise to the occasion.
My late father, George Hamilton Morris, was named for two great men, perhaps in the hope he would attain greatness. In some ways he did, but dad clocked out way too early. He died of cancer at the young age of 52 in 1970.
Over the years, I have missed him. He was a dad who loved to read, ride his boat on the backwaters and dance. After his death, so many of his friends told me dad was a great dancer.
“Man, your daddy could dance, I mean really dance,” one of his close buddies whispered to me as they lowered dad into the ground.
During the great World War II, dad enlisted in the Navy and did his duty fighting back the Japanese while serving aboard an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific.
My mom said he came home from the war a changed person. He left as a youth and returned as a man.
Dad didn’t like to give advice to three totally wild boys, but when he did it was always words for us to ponder and then to follow.
I still use today two important things he taught me. First, how to securely tie a rope. And, how to make a bed.
I apply his rope trick to my lace-up shoes that never come untied. And I can bounce a quarter on any bed after I make it.
One other important thing he taught: Take it like a man. No whining, no sobbing, no running away.
Like actor Tom Hanks said in one of his movies, “There’s no crying in baseball.” To dad, there was no crying in any aspect of life, including games. I tried not to cry at his funeral, but I failed.
If your dad is still with you, give thanks for him on Father’s Day. If he is a good man — and most are — try to be like him.
Ralph Morris is a retired newspaperman who lives near Auburn. His email is email@example.com.