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What Ever Happened to Ward Cleaver?

For all of us who toil and sweat to make lives better for our families in return for new socks once a year, here is my traditional Father’s Day message.

(First published in 1997 on alt.religion.wicca)

I remember how it was when I was a kid. My dad went to work in the morning to fulfill his sacred charge and win the bread that fed our family. While he slaved away all day, mom stayed home, took care of us, and kept the house. When dad walked in the door at night, dinner was hot and on the table. After his repast, he retired to the living room where we all gathered around him to watch the TV shows that he selected. We were simply glad to bask in his presence.

Dad was our general, our CEO, the Lord and Master of our home. Mom was expected to take care of the smaller matters concerning the smooth operation of the household. These duties included keeping the troops (i.e. kids)
in line and out of trouble. Mom’s authority stemmed from dad and we all knew that serious breaches of discipline would be referred to him. When they were, a stern look usually did the trick. Occasionally, it required a”talking to” and, rarely, something a little less cerebral but just as poignant.

While he was the stern sovereign of our realm, dad was also a hero. Of course, my dad actually was a hero. He had all of those medals and citations to prove it. He was also a hero in the sense that all dads are. He fed us and clothed us. He protected us from the bloodthirsty world. He was that larger than life being who was stronger than Superman and smarter than Einstein. There was nothing he couldn’t do nor anything he didn’t know (or any other dad he could not beat up). He was the linchpin of the family and of society. He was the rampart the allowed us to live in security, health, and peace.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s things changed. Amidst the smoke of burning bras and the screaming of rhetoric from the pages of “Cosmopolitan,” dad was thrown from his place in the family and cast into the nether world of political correctness. Mom had decided that she wanted to be dad too. She forsook her roles as loving wife and mother and went to work. She went over the rampart and out to deal with the world on her own terms.

Because of all this, dad is not allowed to be what he was before. Hot dinner on the table when he gets home? Only if he stops at the drive through on the way. Afterward, everyone scurries off to their own entertainments rather than sit at the feet of their beneficent lord. He is no longer the sovereign. Family decisions are made by committee. Discipline has become a joke. Anything stronger than a time out might “emotionally scar” a child and giving one a taste of the back of your hand will end you up in jail. Dads don’t get to decide if their kids will be brought into the world, but we are responsible if their mother exercises her right to choose.

While mom has claimed the world that was built by dads who wanted something better for their kids, we are expected to pick up the loose ends (and dirty socks) she has left behind. As the media crows on about the “deadbeat dads,” millions of us still drag our asses to work every day for a paycheck that will be handed over to the care of our children with a just a few bucks held back for a six pack.

Along with these added burdens, dads still do the things that dads have always done. We worry when there is not enough money to cover the bills. We choke back the bittersweet tears when our sons announce they are too old to
kiss us and when we lose our daughters’ hearts to the cute boy down the street. We burst with pride when the kids pass the milestones of their lives. We hope and pray and cry to our gods for the strength to accomplish the impossible task that is fatherhood and to avoid messing things up in the process.

Even though we no longer wear the crown, it still lies heavy on our heads.

Ward Cleaver may have died when June cast off her pearls and threw down her vacuum, but his spirit lives on in each and every dad who makes those daily sacrifices for those he loves.

Now my fellow dads, let’s raise a glass on this, the one remaining day a year that we are recognized for whom we are instead of simply being cannon fodder for the liberal media.

To us a happy Father’s Day! We are still heroes.


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