published Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Roberts: Special gifts of fathers linger

by Dalton Roberts

With Father's Day upon us on Sunday, I'd like to share some thoughts about how valuable the whole concept of fatherhood is and to introduce you to some pieces of fatherhood that may have changed your life.

With fatherhood, some men, for quite beautiful reasons, are able to develop the finest elements of masculinity. It lets you know there is no law against influencing any child's life with the best elements of fatherhood. The thing I tried hardest to do was to teach my children to think for themselves.

My Dallas son just came in and spent a few days at home and told me again how much he appreciates my refusal to answer all his questions. I would say, "Answers to questions like that hit at the very heart of the philosophies you will build into your life. Only you can answer them and you can only answer them by doing your own thinking. Now if you want to look at several answers great men have written about on those questions, I'm willing to join you in that."

Fathers are like Cracker Jacks. When you open one up, you find a special toy or gift in them. This goes on all our lives, as I discovered in my own father. He bought me a Martin guitar instead of the off-brand I was expecting as a 15-year-old.

In my 50s, he said he wished I could be president. I certainly did not get very excited over his remarks, but when you are an elected official like I was when I was Hamilton County executive, to have your own father say that to you is an unforgettable experience.

I think most of us get our qualities and viewpoints from our own fathers, but there is no reason we cannot adopt the very best fatherhood qualities of any man. I have written about my neighbor, Theo King, who put out food for the Thursday garbage workers. I borrowed that quality in creating my own picture of the ideal father. A father who teaches a child to respect and care for the very least among us possesses a quality we all need.

I picked up another piece for my "personal father" from Al Harvey of Bakewell Mountain. Just prior to his 70th birthday, he told his kids, "Ma is fixing a big Sunday dinner for all of us, but I also want to show you something that day, so try to be here."

After a succulent Ma Harvey lunch, Al Harvey went out to the barn and got some walking stilts and began using them. His family watched in amazement. It is simply the kind of Cracker Jacks prize you might find in Al Harvey's box on any given day.

Some will say, "This was not a good lesson in fatherhood because he could have hurt himself, maybe even broken a hip." I say there are few lessons in life more important than mastering fears -- and having a good time.

A piece of my own personal "Papa" came from a barely literate Baptist preacher who offered to let me use his Olds 88 every time I went to church with him and sang with his wife. No one had ever trusted me that way and, when you respond to any trust from any person, something responds in your own heart that makes you a better mother, daughter, son and -- yes -- a better father, too.

Contact Dalton Roberts at

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