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  Saturday April 19th, 2014    

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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
Dads pass white glove test (06/20/2004)
By Janet Lewis Burns


     
A young boy questioned his mother about the meaning behind ashes on each forehead at Ash Wednesday Mass. She brusquely told him that it means that all humans have arisen from dust and will return to dust again one day. Later, as the boy searched for a baseball which had rolled under his bed, he hollered in great agitation, "Holy cow! Someone is either coming or going under my bed right now!"

Speaking of dust balls (or did I miss the point?), traits of a superior and meticulous housewife or househusband (to be gender-correct) come to mind. Those who do, or do not keep house fall into four categories: "Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am!" "Let somebody else do it!" "It's high time we move!" "Organize, sanitize, and otherwise antagonize."

The kitchen is a one-woman, or one-fella sanctuary. The dishcloth shall never smell sour. DNA may be collected from an over abundance of fingerprints left on appliances. Health remedies of bygone years keep the kiddies smelling of witch hazel, castor oil, camphor, and garlic.

One can feel, in the chill of disinfected air, the negative vibrations in a showy house, that someone is uneasy to have you there. Is it your brand X breath? You left your milking boots on the designer rug in the entryway, for crying out loud! Who would dare to bring a salad in a bowl whose color clashes with dining room decor?! Oh, Oh! I bet that designer hand towel set in the john wasn't actually meant to be used! Nitwit!

My generation, departing from "putting on the dog" and gracelessly surrendering to "who the heck cares anyways?", waits anxiously for comfortable catalogues, like Sears, yard and garden, and The Vermont Country Store, purveyors of the practical and hard-to-find. Labels lap up from distant shores...Teaberry Gum, Evening In Paris cologne, Uncle Wiggly books, Walnettos and horehound candy.

Genuine oilcloth, like the one on the homestead's kitchen table, comes in familiar prints of orchard fruit, gingham, and harvest. There's the classic enamel breadbox, with side vents and hinged door. "Munsingwear" undies can still be ordered, to keep that house hubby flitting freely from chore to chore.

My mother had a surefire trick to ease the pain of earache, which led to her embarrassment. She told of how one of us kids greeted our Bethany Moravian preacher Rev. Splies, one Sunday after services, with "my mom smokes cigarettes." Not a smoker, she lit up only to gently puff smoke into a throbbing ear until pain subsided. After that we probably suffered the consequences of show-and-tell.

"Dad's Day" holds renewed meaning in share-and-share-alike households, with so many super dads tending to domestic duties and organizing children. I read once that the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother. No matter that she's "Ms. executive of the board," "senior vice president," or "your honor."

It takes little effort to become a father, but one must have a heart full of love and caring to be a "DAD."

My dad Lawrence Lewis passed away when I was only twenty-five, a young punk mother of three. I strain to recall moments with him. Simplistic actions of nurturing, he taught us four kids how to cut a wicked Halloween pumpkin, to drink tea, and to catch fireflies. We were entrusted with peeks of secret woodland stashes of lady slippers and pussy willows. He loved picnics with Spam sandwiches, where swings squeaked and creeks gurgled.

I regret that Dad and I didn't have the opportunity to know one another in our waning years. I have a feeling we would like each other much better today. How long does it take to recognize what has been lost? He would have been an endearing presence in our family today...and I believe he is, as angels go.

It has been said that "It's a man's world." I'll give them that. What would we do without them? Any guy who kisses booboos, folds freshly washed unmentionables, dusts furniture and ledges, and loads up the weekly shopping cart can't be all bad.

P.S. If your name is "Dad"...we love you! 

 

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