It's Not Easy Being a Good Dad

I spent Father’s Day in town with Amy. Lacey celebrated the day with her husband Nick and son Madden in Nashville, the place she should have been. We traveled to Chattanooga yesterday to be with Dallas for the day. Our return Saturday gave him a chance to rest before beginning the second term of summer school on Monday. Even Snoop was away at the vet’s since we weren’t sure of the time we’d be back from Chattanooga. I enjoyed a low-key day with just Amy, but twangs of missing the kids hit a couple of times during the day.

I’ve also thought about my own dad on this celebratory day. He died in 1965 when Jim and I were thirteen. So, for more than forty years, we’ve not had a father on whom we could shower gifts and “I love you’s.” No, this isn’t a moment of self-pity. Instead, it’s a moment of reflection on the man we called Daddy and on why I made some of the mistakes with my own two children.

Daddy wasn’t “kid-friendly.” He worked too hard and too long. Shifts rotated weekly so that the man rarely knew what time of day it was. He was sleep deprived and in poor health. His pay wasn’t that good, and he attributed that fact to his having only finished the sixth grade, after which he began a life of work to help out his family.

Dal Rector worried. It’s the Rector Curse. He fretted over money, insurance, our education, Mother’s having to work—EVERYTHING! One of the vivid pictures in my mind is of his sitting at the kitchen table. He wore a t-shirt, the kind with straps, and a pair of work pants. To one side sat a green mug with coffee so thick that it must have been spooned from the percolator. To the other side sat his elephant ashtray. A Winston was pinched between two fingers; Daddy’s left hand propped up his head. His shoulders were rounded and slumped from the weight of his world. Before him lay a small spiral notebook, the kind that can be carried in a shirt pocket. He held in his right hand a pencil with which he “figured” how to stretch too little money across to much month.

Survival of his family was the name of the game. Daddy didn’t have time to fool with playing. In the end, I suppose he knew best as he tried to make sure Mother had all possible help rearing three boys alone.

When my kids came, I was determined to be more involved in their lives. I made sure they knew how to hit a baseball, how to dribble a basketball, and how to throw a football. I coached their teams. We went on vacations, and I “made sure” they had a good time. It was important to me that they had Christmases where their most wished for presents were under the tree. I helped with homework as much as I could. Keeping busy with them showed that I cared, or at least I thought it did.

I fought battles with my own children. All too often I pushed my children hard and made mountains out of mole hills on many occasions. They sometimes resented me, a fact that had me thinking of them as ungrateful. To me, if they knew what it was like to live without a dad, my two children would have changed their tunes.

The fact is that they didn’t have to live without a dad. I was there, but I pushed too hard. Kids need plenty of room to grow and learn. Smothering them, the way I did, drove them to a distance where they could breathe. I see that now. I wish that realization had come earlier so that life would have been easier for them and me.
What I can see now is that my dad did the best he knew how to do. He loved in his way. I did the same. In both cases, our ways were far from perfect. I’m lucky because I’ve adapted to be what my children need in a dad. What my dad missed out on most of all were the chances to watch his sons grow into men and to tell him he was loved and respected. I’d love to thank him for all he did for us as well.

Gun Clarification

I've had some emails that have taken me to task for my stance on guns. As a means of clarifying things, I must first say that I don't have a problem with guns and respect others' rights to have them. What I object to is a legislature that passes a law that allows patrons to carry weapons into establishments that serve alcohol. Hey, I have no objections to alcohol either. I just don't believe the alcohol and guns mix well.

I'm not suggesting that anyone's guns be taken away. What I am suggesting is that this law is one that eventually will come back to bite the legislature in the butt. Our representatives don't seem to be able to deal with laws that help society, but they are quick to enact ones that seem to be of little importance. Municipalities won't have to abide by the law, so perhaps local officials will use the good judgment that is lost on the legislature.

As I said before, I don't oppose guns, just dumb laws that endanger the general public.

Guns in Bars? You're Kidding!

A check of statistics from shows that the U.S. is seventh in the world in firearm murders per hundred thousand (3.72). The figures are based on information from 1999, so it’s safe to say that that number has increased over the last ten years. One thing’s for sure: our state legislature has made it easier for Tennessee to increase its yearly average.

An over-ride of Governor Bredesen’s veto means that many residents can now carry their handguns into establishments selling alcoholic beverages beginning July 14. Our esteemed representatives have decided that doing so is safe. Many question their judgment on the matter. Let’s not forget that our elected officials not all that long ago enacted the “Road-Kill Bill.” Remember that one? It gave us the right to load up animal carcasses and haul them home, where we could skin them and have “good vittles for the table.” The rest of the country horse-laughed us, but who can blame them? We’ve worked for years to dispel the perceptions that Tennesseans don’t wear shoes and don’t have indoor plumbing. With the passing of the road kill bill, the hoots of laughter began again and the questions about us poured like rain.

I can’t figure the logic of the gun-toting bill. Okay, a man can carry his gun into a bar. He can get skunk-drunk and turn surly in a New York minute. If another patron crosses him, the ol’ boy can pull his pistol and blow the adversary’s head off. That doesn’t sound too sane or logical to me. What about the innocent bystanders who don’t own handguns? If they are caught in the crossfire of a feud between two patrons, the flying lead might put an early end to their food, drink, and entertainment, not to mention their lives.

Perhaps the legislature is trying to draw more tourists to the state. I remember commercials that used to advertise re-enacted gun fights at some small attraction. With tough times, supporters of the bills are trying to increase state revenues by encouraging folks to witness a live gun fight. People this day and age love “reality shows,” and nothing comes closer than blood and brain matter splatting on walls of our Tennessee establishments.

Businesses that serve alcoholic beverages will become saloons. Let’s see, the waitresses can dress like Miss Kitty, gun toters can imitate Festus. If they become inebriated, they can play the part of Otis from “Mayberry.” When things get out of control and places are shot up, our local law officers can perform the duties of Marshall Dillon or Sheriff Andy Taylor.

I’m not about to deny others’ rights to have guns. However, I’d rather not have them carrying those weapons in places that I frequent. The papers could be filled with stories of battles that broke out at O’Charley’s or homicides at the bars of Regas or Copper Cellar. Owning a gun is much like driving a car. Almost anyone can do either, but only a handful should be allowed. I can see it now. A guy is on the way to his favorite watering hole when he suffers from a fit of road rage on the interstate into town. He pulls out his handy pistol and unloads on the driver with whom he is furious. Then he can reload and spend the rest of the evening sucking down his favorite drinks. Plain and simple, too many individuals lack the good sense that should come with gun ownership.

The men and women in our state government evidently don’t have enough common sense to be in office. They can’t figure out how to fund education, road construction, or health care, so they deflect the attention by passing an asinine bill that lets Tennesseans play cowboy and cowgirl. Mercifully heavens, we need some guidance here before too many people are gunned down.


I don’t put much faith in surveys. They’re forever producing numbers that just don’t reflect the truth of matters. The only reason I care one whit about polls is that they offer plenty of writing fodder.

One recent morning the local news said that the results of a recent survey indicate that people claim they aren’t religious. First of all, I don’t know what folks mean when they say they’re not religious. That might mean that individuals have no affiliation with a particular denomination. Those on the inside of the churches call these people “un-churched.” It’s a label I detest. The sound of it is negative, akin to the “unclean” or the “uncivilized.

Our world has seen plenty of instances where churches become kingdoms unto themselves. They are like country clubs where membership is limited and applicants must follow a strict set of guidelines. (I heard recently of one church that wanted $5000.00 to hold a funeral in its building, and the person who had died was a member of the congregation.) Some churches exclude groups that are “sinners.” I thought that was the whole idea behind church: opening the doors to all people at all time who need to develop a relationship with a higher power. If those surveyed are saying they want no part of that kind of hypocrisy, then I understand. However, they might do well to continue looking for a church that fits their particular style of worship.

I’m not sure I believe that people are turning their backs on a spiritual relationship with a Creator. With that said, I realize that times are tough for many, and then there’s a younger generation that is full of questions and doubting. We have a tendency to turn blind eyes and deaf ears to everything outside of our own little worlds. That’s part of what makes us human. However, most people come around at some point in life. It might be in a personal battle or a war or a tragedy. The saying “there are no atheists in foxholes” applies. Most of us reach the ends of our abilities to do it all. At that point, we reach for something outside ourselves that will give us the strength to carry on. What is amazing is that every time we do reach, something out there takes our hands and leads us. So, I don’t believe for one minute that fewer people are religious. Individuals are just at a place in life where they are trying to do it all themselves.

I’m over all the polls about divisive issues. The origin of the world, right to life versus right to choose, homosexuality—controversies are whipped up by factions that want to be right. Perhaps these sides are more interested in surviving and thriving than in getting along. We spend too much time accusing others and defending ourselves. More tolerance and less judging could make this world a better place to live.

Every day seems to bring a new public opinion poll on hundreds of issues. We’re told about the president’s approval rating, the public’s perception of the economy, and U.S. citizens’ views of ongoing wars. A minute sampling is used for the generalizations that are spread across the headlines. The facts are that President Obama will continue to serve, regardless of how popular he is with Americans, the economy is cyclic and will improve as soon as the poisons administered by seedy financial institutions are removed, and American troops will be stationed in countries to fight wars for the foreseeable future.

We all could live better lives if many surveys were ended. But how would we know which politician to like, which religion is best, or how to invest our moneys? Without surveys telling us what to do, we might make decision by using some common sense. It might be a novel, but welcome, approach.