Reflections on fathers and men

This is a pic of my dad, Jack Gallaway. He's on my mind because I just lost my Uncle Frank. He was my Mom’s brother, and a kind, sweet man who never said much, but at the same time he showed up. He was the kind of man who said very little…until something needed to be said. I had a perfect example of this via his son, David, who can be the same way. I was in a chatty crowd with my brother Bill who doubted that purple cauliflower grew that way, and instead thought it had to do with purple dye. I assured him it was grown purple and was willing to put $20 behind that, and he wouldn’t take the bet, but was still skeptical. The conversation moved on, but honestly? I did not feel believed, and wasn’t happy, but let it go. David (wordlessly) handed me his phone, with a picture and article on the many colors of cauliflower. It was such a small act, and yet so supportive and full of kindness (I showed it to Bill, feeling good, who brushed it off, making me feel lousy again…but I loved that David heard me). It’s interesting contrasting how the two men handled the situation, and the effect it had on me.

This is where I begin when thinking about fathers. They are meant to support, encourage and love their daughters. First you need to understand that I’m the oldest. And that my dad was the first of his friends to have a child (well enough a girl, this man who only had brothers), so his knowledge of children (and girls) was pretty amateurish. At the same time though, he was a powerful guy, a heavy-hitter, and I learned all about thinking big from him. Growing up, he treated me like he treated the boys, except when he didn’t because I was a girl. It was weird combination. It helped me to be strong and confident like a boy (and I remind you I was born in 1961, so that was unique right there), but remind me that I was only a girl and not the same, and maybe a little less capable. That is, that women are a little less capable. And he didn't think that consciously (and he'd be bummed that I said it), but taught me that through the little things he did, like not wanting my mom to work (so she didn't...and she kind of missed out on that front...but that's another story). BUT even with that, he encouraged me to go at life hard, chase what I really wanted, and take it all in, as it were. I felt I COULD do anything, even if a part of me WAS aware that men had an advantage. The thing is, dad DID have my back. I never felt like I was on my own to the degree that I had nowhere to go.

I have a friend who says that the job of a man is to hold a net for a woman – a safety net, like for a trapeze artist. It allows her to be all that she can, but keep her safe if she falls. Does everyone need that? Yes, actually, they do. But as a group, I feel women are more vulnerable because men are more….dangerous. A father’s job of having his daughter’s back is essential in so many ways. Dads have the opportunity to teach daughters what they need to know about men, and when a man isn’t stepping up and being what he should be, the dad pulls himself up to that 7 foot tall being that he is, looks down at the man and says “knock it off, or get out.” You know?

So without my dad, I am left with three brothers and a son. And my brothers…wait, let’s give this context. My dad died, a month later my daughter got cancer and died a few years later, and right after that I left my husband (not because of losing my daughter btw…different story)…and my son and I were both struggling, and not really able to support each other as much as perhaps we otherwise would have. So ok, I was left with my brothers as the men in my life. This was a first for them, having a sister who had no man in her life. They didn’t see it, the need for a man looking after my back, at first….my need for support. And I didn’t see i, and so didn't think to ask for support. That's really a shame, because while weren't as close as some siblings, we are DO absolutely love each and would do what we could when there's a need. But those those first few years living alone I really I felt super alone. Mom, of course, was great, but it wasn’t the same, and besides, without dad, she was missing a big chunk of her life too. Plus, my brothers were busy with their lives and trying to make it all work. I just struggled, and tried to figure it all out on my own, but in hindsight, if dad was around it would have been easier. Today, I see it particularly clearly. Dad told me (as he died) he wanted us “tight”. And at the time I thought “not gonna happen.” Happily, in the almost twelve years since my dad died, I see that I’ve been building this better relationship with my brothers, and that they’ve been really welcoming about it and returning the love. I know that I WANT that closeness with my brothers. And the more I think about it, the more I realize I always wanted it, but just gave up. Interestingly, I see that we all are working on being closer. In different ways, but we’re working on it. It's easy to forget that relationships take work - all relationships. But the reward, the having of those relationships, it feels good. And honestly? I feel safer being closer to my brothers. Like someone has my back. It’s a relief. Conclusion? Indeed, women need a man in their lives (note – or someone who stands in that historically male spot), and that needs to be solid.

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