Father's Day has just passed, and it offered a chance for me to reflect on the indispensable role fathers play in our lives. This week, the state prison in Caldwell held a special day for fathers who are incarcerated there, which included a visit from their children, along with many family-oriented activities. It's designed to help these dads continue to be a part of their children's lives, to maintain the bonds that are often broken when a life of crime separates a father from his children. Returning to a productive life after serving time will be much more likely if a support network is in place. I applaud the prison's staff and leadership for taking this thoughtful step.
This year was my first year without my dad, Bill, who passed away in January. My dad believed in discipline, and I know my brother and sister and I drove him nuts with our constant fighting all through our adolescence. But he never failed to tell us he loved us, and he showed us tremendous affection. That's not always the case with parents, and I'm grateful for his love and support. Another thing I got from my dad was a love of music. My dad was an incredible jazz piano player, and one of my great joys in life was listening to him play while my mom sang. There was a kind of magic in his fingers as they slid across the keys. He inspired my brother and me to take up instruments and eventually form a band. We were thrilled to have my dad play on the CD we recorded. It makes me pretty emotional to listen to that CD now. I think the music is what I'll miss the most.
We count on our fathers as breadwinners, role models, coaches, parents, grandparents. We tap into their experiences and expertise. Whenever I needed help with home improvement projects, my dad would pop on over with all the appropriate tools. He really was amazing and very talented at whatever he applied himself to, and he helped me build confidence in my own abilities. One of the last projects we did together was to rebuild a section of my fence. But it was the time spent with him I cherished the most.
Many of our current social ills may be traced to the absence of fathers. In some cases, fathers have been replaced by a government check, which compensates financially, but not emotionally. I know growing up I was always proud of my dad's work ethic, and he held jobs as vice president of Marietta College, as the press secretary for the governor of Iowa, as the co-founder of Bird Watcher's Digest, and ultimately, as the chairman of the Marietta Community Foundation. Wherever he went, he had the special talent of making people feel good about themselves. He was a mentor to countless folks, and each week I learn about someone else whose life he touched in positive way.
One show I used to love to watch was The Wonder Years which was set in the 1960s and early 1970s. The dad in the show was pretty gruff. His children had no real idea what his actual job was; the just knew he went off to work at some company and came home tired and grumpy. I think that's what a lot of dads were like in the old days, perhaps a bit remote. They didn't express a lot of affection; their children just kind of took it for granted. And yet, most importantly, they were always there, and they provided a sense of stability that is often lacking these days. We used to tease my dad about his foibles, but his presence put our minds at ease. I used to confess that I always felt safe to fall asleep in the car on family vacations, as long as his hairy forearm was on the steering wheel ... that was certainly not the case when my mom was driving!
In all seriousness, we need to cherish and support fathers because of the vital roles they play on so many levels. I'm blessed to be father to three great children, Annalea, Nat and Gus. I'm not a perfect dad, but I will keep striving to improve. It helps to have a wonderful wife to help keep things on course, especially when I'm away. Lord willing, I can live up to the great example set by my dad.
Rep. Thompson may be reached by calling (614) 644-8728, emailing District93@ohr.state.oh.us, or writing to State Rep. Andy Thompson, 77 South High St., Columbus, Ohio 43215.