Sunday, June 20th, is Father's Day. Father's Day sparks memories of my two fathers and of all the lessons they taught me. My birth father had the faith in his wife, my mother, to heed her wish that I be raised by my aunt and uncle in West Virginia if she were to die while I was still an infant. After my mother's death in the influenza pandemic of 1918, my father did as she had asked, and I went to live with Vlurma and Titus Byrd, my aunt and uncle.
My second father, my "Pap," was the hardworking West Virginia coal miner, Titus Byrd, who reared me. His daily quiet example shaped my goals and my future outlook. I cannot thank him enough for his willingness to take on the lifelong task of parenting a child not his own. We never had an extra penny, but "Pap" always made me feel loved.
Jean Paul Richter observed that, "What a father says to his children is not heard by the world, but it will be heard for posterity." A father must balance on a fine edge -- pushing his children to be not just their best, but teaching them to strive to be the best. A father must teach his children an idealism that inspires them to make the impossible real, but he must also know when to back off and simply be proud of his children's effort. Fathers must set the example for their children to follow in respecting others and dealing with life's setbacks. Mixing elements of the tough taskmaster, hard-charging coach, protector and defender, mentor and teacher, hands-on or hands-off participant in family life -- there are as many roles as there are fathers. The results of each father's work are on public display as his children grow and take their places in society.
This Father's Day, I will remember both my father and my "Pap," with great fondness. I hope all of us, whether grown or not, will remember their fathers with pride and love, and thank "Dad" for his caring example and his hard work.