Fathers – Real and Literary

A Happy Father’s Day to all dads!

Today I’m thinking of my dad, Bob, who passed sixteen years ago. He was a good husband, father, son, brother, uncle, and friend. He was not a boring accountant. Dad was a fun and funny guy, always the life of the party.

For several Christmases back in the 70’s, Dad bought my mother a gadget (he did also buy her presents she liked). The tag on the wrapped box should have had his name on it, for Dad was the person who made the most use of the gizmo that plugged into the wall and cooked food. I think the first gift was a meat slicer. Followed by an appliance that cooked bacon. An egger. A hot dog cooker. A deep fry. Dad particularly loved the deep fry. My mother did not; she was the person who always had to wipe the grease off the walls.

But Dad was a good cook, and was particularly known for one meal. Every Friday he would come home from work and make dinner-pizza. Dad was, actually still is, legendary for his pizza. There was nothing fancy about the dish- it was made from store-bought dough, sauce, mozzarella cheese-but Dad made a great production of preparing and serving the pizza. It brought everyone around the table for good conversation and lots of laughter.

Dad was a fan of the New York Rangers, the Saint Louis Cardinals, and Saint John’s basketball team (he was an alumnus of the university). Dad was also an avid reader; Tom Clancy was one of his favorites. Dad would have gotten a kick out of my book. I think he would be very intrigued by blogs; he may have even had one of his own.

And since this is a book blog, how about literary fathers? Here are a few of my favorite fictional dads.

Atticus Finch ( To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee) – Is there a more honorable character in all of fiction? Atticus, the widowed father to Jem and Scout, is a wise, patient, courageous man who risks his life fighting for justice in 1930’s Alabama. The lawyer saw the humanity of every person he met, regardless of their skin color, wealth (or lack of), and mental capacity. Everything you need to know about Atticus is encompassed in his simple reply to Scout at the end of Lee’s classic. After Scout comments on Boo Radley’s niceness, Atticus says: “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”  The world would be a much better place if we all had Atticus’s vision.

Father Timothy Kavanagh (The Mitford Series by Jan Karon) – At the start of Jan Karon’s series, Father Tim is a father of the clerical sort – an Episcopalian pastor.  The sixty-year-old bachelor leads an adoring parish at Lord’s Chapel while living a staid, quiet life in the rectory. Then Dooley Barlow, the grandson of church sexton Russell Jacks, shows up on Father Tim’s doorstep, barefoot and dirty. When Russell falls ill, Father Tim takes Dooley, eleven, into his home and becomes his unofficial foster-father. Father Tim knows nothing about being a parent, and Dooley knows nothing about having a parent. The two stumble along together, with Father Tim making his fair share of mistakes as he guides Dooley with love and teaches the young boy, and readers, about faith, grace, and forgiveness.

Bob Cratchit (A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens) – Bob endures his boss’s scrooginess more than any other character in Dickens’ classic tale. And yet he remains ever-cheerful and forever kind. He is a loving, playful father to his brood of six and a gentle caregiver to son Tim. Though the family’s Christmas dinner is meager, thanks to Scrooge’s refusal to pay Bob a just wage, Bob sincerely offers a toast to Scrooge’s health. Bob’s generosity of spirit is well-rewarded by the story’s end: a big salary raise, the prize turkey, and Tiny Tim’s good health.

Arthur Weasley (J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series) – Arthur, though he possesses magical talent, is a typical dad. He’s always building something, or tearing something apart, in his backyard shed. He’s also often in an alliance with his children, keeping their misadventures a secret from Molly, his wife, or asking his offspring not to tell Molly of his magical experiments gone awry. And though he has enough children to care for (seven), he takes Harry under his wing, guiding him and protecting him as if he were his own son. I’ve never understood, though, why the Head of the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts would be so clueless as to the use of said artifacts.

So, who are your favorite fathers of literature? Do you see your dad in a particular fiction papa?

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