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Reflections on fathers and men

Updated: Apr 17, 2021

This is a photo 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 loved that David heard me enough to check. 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. I have a friend who who's child was accused of cheating. I personally believe you stand by and believe in your child no matter what. I would want a father who runs to a lawyer and says "how do we handle this?" you know? Innocent people suffer from a wrong verdict all the time (particularly when they are a minority) and dad's need to be our first defense.

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 an adult, 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? Dad 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. When my college told me I'd never get into grad school with my grades (tough Freshman year). Dad was FURIOUS and said there was ALWAYS a school for everyone, you just had to find it. I applied to 13 grad schools, and was accepted into 6. Go Dad!! And another time I really wanted to attend a workshop I could not afford, and he gave me his frequent flyer miles to get me there. Dad was always behind me. And I felt it.

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 all DO absolutely love each and would do what we could when there's a need. A friend said that losing her dad was like losing "true north" and that just resonated with me in a big way. In 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've always wanted it, but just gave up. Interestingly, I'm really seeing lately 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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