Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Old Man

I have said it many times, I am fortunate to have lived the most blessed of lives. I was born to parents who were very poor in terms of money and property, but who were incredibly wealthy in terms of spirit, pride, the willingness to work and pursue dreams for a better life for themselves and their boys.

I was close to both my parents. As a young boy my Dad often worked shift work which meant that two weeks out of three he worked nights. On those nights, I would refuse to go to bed until he got home around midnight. I would vow to wait up for him but I would always crawl under the coffee table and go to sleep. When he got home he would carry me to bed, and I would never know.

As I got older my Dad took seriously his duty to prepare me to be a man. Even as a very young boy I had chores to do and the chores got increasingly harder as I grew older. Sometimes, I thought my Dad was the worst Dad there was because often it seemed my friends didn't have to work near as hard as my brothers and I did. Yet, with a job well done, my Dad always saw to it that there were rewards. Even the rewards though often had a dual purpose as when my Dad bought me and my brother a horse. We had lots of fun with that horse. It made us mobile and let us roam far and wide in the countryside.

But any of you who have ever been around horses, know that it takes a hell of a lot of work to feed and water and brush a horse. Looking back, I know for certain that the horse was a reward for hard work, but more than that, my Dad saw it as another step in our learning responsibility and the reward of a job well done.

When my Dad worked days or slept days because he had worked the night before, there was always work assigned which had to be completed by the time he got home from work or by the time he got up. Woe be it, if the job was not accomplished; and woe be it if it was not accomplished well enough to pass Dad's inspection which always came.

By the time I was ten years old, I was not only expected to do my chores around the house, in the yard or in the barn yard; but I was expected to work to provide my own spending money. By that time my family had moved solidly into the middle class due to the hard work of Dad & Mom, but you'd never know it from Dad's attitude.

"Son," he'd say, "The world is a cruel place and it doesn't give a damn about you. Anything you get from the world you're going to have to work for and be willing to work hard." At age ten working hard meant mowing lawns for the neighbors throughout the summers. By the time I was fourteen years old I was working part time after school and on weekends in a local business. I hated to have to work while my friends were out having fun, but as far as Dad was concerned it was work or don't eat.

But as always, there were rewards. Dad came home with a new boat one day. My brothers and I were on cloud nine. He took us all out to the lake and taught us how to water ski. I took to it like a duck takes to water. It became my favorite sport. There were other times when Dad took me hunting or fising. There were trips to the mountains which the whole family enjoyed.

Though I didn't always appreciate Dad's attitude about work as a young boy, looking back now, I realize I owe Dad and Mom for everything I have. All my achievements in life, I owe to my Dad's unbending requirement to work and work well. "Anything worth doing is worth doing well Son," he'd say.

Looking back on the life I've lived and the achievements I've made, I realize now that I'd never have made them if I hadn't understood the necessity and the joy of hard work and the rewards it can bring. Learning that work can be fun was a gift my Dad gave to (forced on) me.

Dad has been gone almost 30 years now. It doesn't seem possible. He was such a force of nature and such a presence in my life, I never dreamed he could die. It just didn't seem possible; now, 30 years later, it still doesn't. But I know Dad would be proud of me and my accomplishments. He probably wouldn't approve of my retiring at age 63. He was too much into work for that. But on the other hand, he'd be very proud that I accomplished enough to have the ability to afford to retire at age 63, and he would be happy to note that while I've retired I still work for the pure joy of it.

As I've mentioned before, I learn a great deal from music and poetry. Some of the best philosophy I've ever read has been in the lyrics of a song. One of my favorite groups is Celtic Thunder. Everytime I hear their song, "The Old Man," I think about my Dad. The You Tube version of the song is embedded below. Listen carefully to the lyrics.

I have mentioned many times that human males are complicated beings and male sexuality is a extremely complex. It is true. Just from observing life, my own as well as others, I have seen how vital a father is to a boy. I am convinced that much of the turmoil we see in the younger generations today is because too many boys have been raised by single mothers with no father figure in their lives.

An appropriate father figure is an absolute necessity for a boy. He can survive without it, but he cannot flourish. Absent a real father, a boy needs a grandfather, an uncle or some other older man in his life who is honestly interested enough in him to teach him to become a man.

Boys who never have a father figure in their lives, more often than not, are at some level aware that something is missing in their lives. From a psychological standpoint the lessons learned from a father figure are critical. But it's more complicated than that. The boy must not only learn the lessons his father teaches him, he must also at some point in his mid to late teens break away from his father and stand on his own two feet. This breaking of the old father/boy bond and the beginning of a new adult son/father bond is an integral part of becoming a man. Sadly, the average 30 year old is now still living in the home he grew up in, his mother is washing his underwear and his Dad is supporting him financially while the boy/man often does nothing more productive that play video games. It is doubtful that such a man child will ever become a fully and properly functioning man.

For men, the absolute need for a bond with other men does not end with the bond between father and son. The need for bonding with other men remains strong all through a man's life. Unfortunately, American society and American wives in particular do not recognize these male/male bonds as necessary or legitimate. Too many women today have the misguided opinion that their husband should be their best friend as well, and he should be content to involve her in every aspect of his life. This misguided view on the part of women is perplexing because at the same time women make this demand of their husbands, they are more often than not, quite demanding that they be allowed to spend a great deal of time with their girlfriends. For some reason girls' nights out and lunch with the girls is considered normal. It is also considered normal for a woman to tell her girlfriends the most intimate information about her married life, but a guys' night out and a desire to spend time with other men outside of work or perhaps other than on the golf course is not considered normal at all.

I am convinced that the internet and the information age it has ushered in is going to change the way men see themselves for ever. More and more, men are beginning to realize that men are naturally wired to run in packs. They are naturally wired to bond with other men, and they are even wired to form an intimate bond with a particular man who has something to contribute to their life and whose life they can contribute something in turn.

More and more often young men in their twenties and thirties are forming special bonds with older men in their fifties and sixties. I think this is the result of so many boys having been raised with no father figure or a father figure who didn't take enough interest in them, spend enough time with them or demand enough of them. The need for a bond with a man is so strong that such men are driven to form it even as adults. I believe it is something they instinctually understand they need.

I am the most blessed of men. I had a father who taught me to be a man. I have had bonded buddies and a wife who understood my need for such. If I could wish one wish for each of you, I'd wish for you to find that special buddy for yourself.

I miss the Old Man. I thank him for all he did for me. I'm thankful I got the chance to raise my own son in the same way my Old Man raised me.

Jack Scott


  1. Jack:

    Here! Here!
    Thank god for good fathers (I had a great one too!). Despite my best efforts, my only regret is that I could never fill his shoes and be as good as he was.
    It's a constant battle when you have inner conflicts..but, at least he put me on the right track.

  2. Well written and spoken. Somehow I agree with your statement full heartedly. But you bring up interesting points. This is touchy subject and I am sorry. If boys need fathers wouldn't they also need mothers? You dont have to answer that, touchy subject!

    However, I hope that my husband can bond with other men. I hope he feels the freedom to go out and have fun, without the guilt of missing time with his family. I hope he finds that special buddie, he so much deserves.

    Thank you for your interesting and powerful post!


  3. AWILTAGM, I don't see it as a touchy subject at all. In fact, I'm happy you brought it up.

    My Dad thought me to be a man and to take care of myself in a world that demands much of anyone who is striving for success.

    My Mother, on the other hand, taught me the finer things of life. She is totally responsible for nurturing my faith in God and for encouraging me to work out my own redemption.

    Much of the compassion, much of my caring attitude for other people came directly from my Mother. She taught me early in life that we all need each other and that there is cycle of life, a cause and effect that tends to bring to us in kind what we give to others.

    My Dad taught me the necessity of hard and never ending work. My Mom taught me to appreciate the finer things of life - art, music, poetry, family ties, education and a willingness to lend a helping hand to those in need.

    My Dad taught me to be a man. My Mother taught me to love others and to look for the good in people. She believed there was good in every person.

    There is no doubt whatsoever that my Mom is as responsible for the man I am today as is my Dad. It was a team effort.

    That said, this is a blog about men aimed at men. The song I wanted to high light is about "The Old Man." I don't think my Dad would be insulted to be called the old man in the context I used the term, but I would never in a million years dare to think of my Mother as the old lady. She was just a loving and caring lady who made the most out of her short live, dying much much too young; but died knowing she had put me and my brothers on the right track. She died less than two months after I graduated from college. One of my great regrets is that she didn't live to see the men her sons became. I think she'd be proud of us.

    No man can be the man he should be without a good father and a good mother. I stand by my statement though. Too many boys today are growing up raised only by a single mother. That is an immense tragedy.

    Jack Scott

  4. I had to smile to myself reading this. My father always referred to himself, as well as his own father as "The ol' man". My father's birthday just passed, and if he was alive today, he would be 100 years old! I can't believe that, it just doesn't seem possible. He was 42 when I was born, and I was 38 when he died. I always felt gypped that we didn't have more time to spend together.

    I couldn't agree with you more on every aspect you've said here, although I think our parents took different approaches to life and parenting. The difference is, we couldn't bond with our father until we were adults. He was never warm and fuzzy. As kids growing up, we couldn't stand him! He was that impossible.

    "You give a man to fish, and he'll eat for a day. You teach a man to fish, and he'll eat for a lifetime."

    Both of my parents taught us to fish. Nothing was given to us, other than food, shelter and guidance. We were poor, but well guided, and it taught both my brother and me how to be adults. As hard, harsh, and at times, DISMAL as our lives seemed to be growing up, I wouldn't change one aspect with the outcome of it all. Not a thing! For the longest time, I thought I would never be able to say that about my ol' man. He was rude, self centered and in general, unpleasant to be around. He was always there, but completely not involved with us. By the time I was 11 or 12, he didn't even know how old I was! A true, distant father, that no one, not even my mother, really understood. In spite of all that, somehow we realized he couldn't help that; he was over whelmed with what life brought him. Quite unlike yourself, when my father came home, we went to our rooms so that we didn't have to put up with him. There was never any conversation between us when we were kids. Just directives.

    As time went on, probably by the time we were in our 20s--both my brother and I realized that ultimately he was right about most things. It's just that he had no patience or acceptance of extra curricular activities, as we expected as boys growing up. For him, they just didn't exist, and all he knew was work, eat, sleep. It seemed as though his life of hard work would never pay off. Eventually, in a low keyed manner, it did. He grew to respect and befriend both me and my brother as adults. We had prospered and did well for ourselves. Although he never said "I love you" or "I'm proud of you" we all knew that he was. That's all that mattered.

    Do I wish I could have changed things for him and my mother? Absolutely! I wish I could have made life easier for them, and I wish HE could have been able to discover his playful side that he once knew long before I was born. But life happens, and people respond to it the best way they are able to. That's what happened to him, and I often wonder if all of that changed, would I be there person I am today?

  5. Good posting! I think fathers are very important and men need each other in many important ways. I wish I had been a better father to my son - who is 24 and still living with his Mom. But I think I did pretty well given my own issues.

  6. Excellent essay. Every man's experience is a somewhat different, yet I see that there are common threads among those who have commented and Jack.

    It wasn't until after my father was dead (when I was 31) that I realized how good he was as a person. When I was little, I resented the punishment I got at his hand, but most if not all of it was deserved. Actually I could deal with the spanking easier than the verbal assaults -- yet the latter were not so frequent that they should have bothered me much.

    After I went to college, I looked into the family history some and discovered that his father had been something of a slave-driver to his sons, and not exactly soft-spoken about it. (We're talking around 1917-1932 here.) But that became more reconcilable as I realized the pressures that my grandfather had to deal with. His own father had deserted the family when my grandfather was 2 years old. Thus, the boys and there mother were left to run the farm on their own. When my grandfather got married, he had almost nothing but through extremely hard work prospered for a time. Then came the farm depression and my grandmother's chronic illness. Under the circumstances, I have to give him credit for not turning to booze or some other destructive force. But having had no father in the home growing up, he didn't know exactly how to be a father; most of all how to show love for his boys.

    In later years, my uncles complained bitterly about how hard "the old man" made them work, but I never heard a word of that from my father. In addition, my father wrote to his father; probably on average at least once a week for fifty years, and helped him out financially when he was able to do so. So my Dad gets credit for compliance with the 5th commandment.

    I guess my point is that those who had a father who did what fathers are supposed to do should be grateful for that. To the extent that our fathers weren't perfect, the imperfections are often understandable if we would but step back and try to get a better picture of our fathers' own background and pressures.

  7. WW II bastard. Father returned from navy when I was 3+ years old. I only learned the bastard nature of my life when I was in a full body cast in 2000; a younger brother told me, and it seems that while my parents never told me, and I was baptized in a Papist orphanage, and although I had highest grades in first 8 grades of Papist parochial school, I was not allowed to be an altar boy. The Papists don't make a sexual awareness easy! I paid for the foolish mistakes of a father who could not keep his uniform trousers buttoned, and a mother who believed the Papist horseshit about birth control (but succumbed to fornication.) They had 10 more children, but no Papist monk, nun, priest, etc. ever taught anything about s_x!

    Also, I had large breasts from my earliest years, just like all the males in my mother's family, but my father teased me unmercifully. In high school, I avoided showering; in the military, I arose before anyone else wherever I was stationed. I always wore a T-shirt, and do to this day.

    Roman Catholicism, at the time I was born and throughout my formative years, brought its problems upon itself. And given the rise of Big Mama Angelica's EWTN and other comparable bodies, the Second Vatican Council and its reforms are being swept into the dustbin of history. But who needs them? We Orthodox Christians are growing very well.

    Dn. Martin


I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

The only reason I take the time to write this blog is to spur your thoughts and comments. Please do not let the spammers cause you not to comment. I know entering the verification words and numbers is a pain in the ass, but I hope you will not let the spammers cause you not to comment.

I still very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott