Father’s Day starts an inner slideshow for me. We stood in the driveway on the Fourth of July, each holding one end of the American flag. Standing upright, we held it taut, then began to fold, fold, fold, until it ended in a perfect triangle, the last bit tucked inside to hold it all together. I was 8. My father taught me to fold a flag like a Marine, and I can do it to this day.
In the emerald heart of the woods, I hefted a hammer and wailed on a nail, to little effect. I was 6. We were building a tree house, which I now think was probably about five feet off the ground. It was an impregnable tower.
We knelt and he showed me how to sight the target and then squeeze the trigger during a pause of breath. I do not remember how old I was then, I hope not 6 or 8 — probably 10 or 11.
For Father’s Day, we always got him a lemon cake from Mrs. Rhode’s Bakery in Atlanta, because that was his favorite. But he made his own father’s days, just as an expert in family communication recommends.
Mark T. Morman is a professor of communication in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences in Texas.
He says dads should not sit back on Father’s Day and wait for gifts and cards. “If men want closeness with their children it’s up to them.” Patriarchs should snap the laptop shut, get off the couch, and start something. It does not matter much what that something is, but “men pursue closeness through activity.” The feminine style of pursuing closeness is more about sharing and confiding, according to Morman.
Morman and Elizabeth Barrett of Baylor surveyed fathers and daughters by asking this question:
“Think for a few minutes about the turning points of your relationship with your daughter that effected closeness. Below, please describe those times and why or how they effected closeness in your relationship.”
The most important thing for fathers and daughters was sharing activities. Each wrote that as number one, on a blank sheet of paper. No multiple choices in the study.
Fathers are crucial. Father and daughter relationships “have significant influence over their daughter’s academic achievement, career choices, mental health, body image, mate selection, and sexual and social confidence,” wrote Morman and Barrett in their study. It was published in Human Communication, titled “Turning Points of Closeness in the Father/Daughter Relationship.”
When I was an adult, and my father was old, he gave me a melancholy gift. It was a family tree, starting when the first American Hooke came to Virginia from England in the 1600s. It ended with my sister and me. He was the last to carry his surname, which had lost the e and become Hook.
But he still built a lineage. Not to brag, but my sister is a strong, good, resilient, kind, woman who contributes a lot to society. I myself am not chopped liver.
He built his lineage by teaching us to bait hooks, to grow okra, to grill burgers, to drive, to prune, to ride bikes, to paint, to grout.
Thank you, Dad.
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