Father Figures

Strangely enough, I got a lot of positive feedback following the article naming my mother as the primary culprit for creating the conservative monster I am today. However, as this is the month to honor fathers, perhaps it’s time for the other shoe to fall. While my mom was, and still is, the primary parental authority in what made me the person I am today, I must also give tribute to the male influences in my life. Yes, you heard me right, “influences,” as in the plural.

My parents divorced when I was very young, and 90% of everything I learned, I learned from my mom. How to ride a bike? Mom. How to throw a football? Mom. How to make it through high school? Definitely, Mom. That’s not to say that my Dad didn’t teach me anything. After all, without him, I probably would never have learned how to cuss like a sailor.

However, I don’t want to give you the impression that I grew up lacking in male role models. While most of what I am I owe to my mom, a large portion of what I always wanted to become was due to the positive examples set by both of my grandfathers. With even just their intermittent influence, I never once felt lacking in guidance or love.

But since this is the month for fathers, not grandfathers, perhaps I should pay tribute to some of the father figures that affected me most. So, in the absence of an actual man of the house, I’d like to say thanks to the following men who filled in all the gaps in my early development.

Thank you, Chuck Jones. You taught me how to laugh, mostly at the pain, suffering, and shortcomings of others. While the nation moved toward political correctness, you held tight to the comedic value of speech impediments, physical violence, and unchecked character flaws.  You introduced me to classical music, if only in 3-5 minute segments, and gave me a true appreciation for seeing the humor and joy in any situation.

Thank you, Mel Blanc. You taught me more about the English language than any teacher of speech, diction, or grammar I ever had in school. You showed me that what you say is greatly influenced by how you say it. You gave voice to rabbits, pigs, and birds and taught me French through a skunk and Spanish through a mouse. You brought cavemen back to life and martians down to earth. 

Thank you, Franklin W. Dixon, or whatever your real name is. You gave me my first real appreciation for the printed word. You introduced me to mystery and intrigue, to the power of deduction and rational thought. You helped me build a foundation of the importance of visualization and verbal creativity. And most importantly, you sparked what has turned out to be an insatiable appetite for reading.

Thank you, Stephen J. Cannell. You entertained me constantly, and kept a smile on my face most evenings. You produced exactly the kind of show that is vital to the developing teenage male psyche. Your devotion to sacrificing reality for action taught me volumes in the area of “Hollywood Physics,” that actions speak louder than senseless dialogue, and that a coherent plot is secondary to a fully staffed special effects department.

God bless you, Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax. You gave me a creative outlet for my inner dork. You fostered my imagination and strengthened my resolve for individuality. Thank you for showing me that the real beauty of games is found in the fellowship of the people you play them with. And, on a side note, my mom would also like to thank you for keeping me away from girls for at least an extra couple of years.

In reality, there are dozens of people who were more a part of my upbringing than they know. Luckily, I learned early on that life was about making the best of any situation. And my situation allowed me access to a multitude of role models who made me the father I am today. Thanks, dads.

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Volume 6, Issue 12, Posted 8:31 AM, 06.16.2010