Merritt: Happy Father's Day to the dads, the unsung heroes of the family fold

Merritt: Happy Father's Day to the dads, the unsung heroes of the family fold
Columnist Dolly Merritt's husband, Paul, also known as "Pop-Pop" walks down a pier to fish with grandson, Ben. This Father's Day, Merritt sends out a thank-you to all dads. (Courtesy photo)

Dads, you deserve a break today. I join your wives and kids who understand that you are, indeed, entitled to be the beer busting, couch-potatoes so often depicted in your Father’s Day cards.

Not that you guys seem to be sensitive about receiving funny rather than flowery greeting cards. Most dads I’ve observed enjoy a good laugh, even if they are the brunt of the joke. Besides, though we presume receiving a mushy card would also be fine, we know that many of you aren’t in the habit of displaying your emotions, and the words “I love you” don’t seem to be uttered from your mouths as frequently as from your female counterparts.


Nonetheless, I know love when I see it and I’ve been counting the non-verbal ways that the dads I know have shown their love while raising their children.

When our son and daughter were babies, my husband Paul pitched in with the once-considered “unmanly” chores of diapering, feeding, bathing, and giving me a break on alternate Saturdays, allowing me to sleep a little later while he took care of our children.

Parenting was a learning experience for both of us, as we garnered our share of mistakes. (Paul often recalls with pain the time he was horrified to discover he had pinned the diaper [before Pampers] to our son’s skin. Still, he carried on.)

As the children grew, so did his involvement, coaching baseball, softball, girls basketball, and umpiring. He even wore a headdress for meetings of the YMCA Indian/Adventure Guides and Princess programs which promoted father-child companionship. Paul taught our children how to drive while I cowered in the back seat; encouraged them to work when they were in their teens; and laid down firm rules regarding his expectations.

Through the grace of God and love, our children grew up to be responsible adults, each having had a child, and the mantle of fatherhood was passed on to our son, while Paul enjoyed his new role as “Pop-Pop.”

When our first grandson, Zack, was born, our son Paul was elated, passing out cigars to all of his friends. As the father of a newborn, he was attentive and mindful of his child’s daily growth. Our son repeated his dad’s involvements, encouraging Zack as he grew. Sports provided an easy connection for father and son which included swimming, baseball, (having coached his baseball team), basketball and football games. He spent hours in their backyard teaching his son how to throw a ball and put up a basketball hoop where they could practice layups.

During this period, “Pop-Pop” enjoyed attending those games, even co-coaching one baseball season with our son. In addition, our grandson was encouraged to work part-time while in high school to help reinforce what had been demonstrated by his dad and granddad — responsibility, honesty and integrity. He learned his many lessons well and has grown into a well-adjusted, responsible adult.

Let’s not forget the non-biological dads. My son-in-law, Barry, has established the ability to provide a stable, loving environment for my grandson, Ben, who was 4 years old when Barry married my daughter. Having two daughters of his own, who lived with their mother, Barry created a healthy blend of family during his daughters’ weekly visits and it was wonderful to see the “brother-sisters” relationships that began to develop and have continued.

Through the years, Barry was there to advise, answer adolescent questions and support Ben’s growing pains. Though Ben’s biological dad has always been a healthy presence in his life, his daily living relationship with Barry has morphed into one of admiration and respect — so much so, that Ben wrote about that relationship in his college entrance essay. (He was accepted at the college of his choice and even received a four-year academic scholarship.)

Observing the three fathers in my family, I conclude that, yes, actions often do speak louder than words.

Thank you, dads, our unsung heroes of the family fold. May you enjoy your day of amplified TV bliss, surrounded by the people you love most — your family.