If you were looking for a supporting book to read alongside the Proverbs 1-9 series, consider the famous play by Arthur Miller, “Death of a Salesman.” All blame to my teachers and other developers, before last week I had never read this staple of American theater. Boy, did this portrayal of a modern-day family man and tragic hero leave an impression on me. And a dark one at that: a few pages into the story one has a pretty good idea how it’ll end, and just as predicted the story closes when Willy, the eponymous salesman, takes his own life.
Without re-telling the story or attempting to fathom the characters, I want to point out one big lesson from the play: Fathers are very very very Important.
When Willy was very young, his father left the family and headed to Alaska for reasons unstated. (Most of us fathers could imagine what they might have been!) Willy holds no bitterness for being abandoned; rather he savors the few faint memories of the “man with a big beard.” Yet throughout his life he carries a longing to know, and for his own sons to know, “the stock they spring from.”
In the absence of his father, Willy has never been confident in his major decisions (though boasting and bluster often shield his insecurity). He admits to his older brother, in what I think is the best sentence of the book: “…well, Dad left when I was such a baby and I never had a chance to talk to him and I still feel – kind of temporary about myself.” That’s a good way of putting it: without fathers around, kids feel kinda temporary. Important to note: the affliction of fatherless rootlessness doesn’t terminate in Willy, but only is distended into his own boys’ character.
The other day a teacher said to me that from his observations into his students, the ills of society can largely be traced to the breakdown of the nuclear family. Indeed, fatherlessness leaves a deep gouge unto a few generations.
Fathers, putter around the house. Regularly put down your computers and your phones, look away from the TV, and talk with your kids. Lead the family in thanking God for the food, and then sit around the table with your family for a while after the food is gone. Take your family to church and sit in the same pew. Go on excursions with the family. Sit through painful music recitals and little league soccer games in which the kids REFUSE TO SPREAD OUT AND PASS.
Get your lard *&!*$% off the couch and deal with the kids when they disobey or talk smack to their mom. Think through your kids’ life and consider what they need next. Look over your kids’ education and care about what they’re learning…or not. Pray and pray some more for them. Be invested.
If you’re unhappy, find some way to crawl out of the moroseness. If a secret is eating away at your spirit, find someone to whom you can lay down your dark burden. If you hate your job, change jobs, or find some licit happiness that will alleviate. If where you live is sucking the life out of you, most likely you can move!
Dads, do what it takes to rear your children in a family where the father is present, generally upbeat, invested, has opinions, LEADING, and takes seriously his role as a churchman. By the virtue of our Lord’s Resurrection, our labor – particularly as fathers – is not in vain in Him. Hallelujah!
P.S. And if all that wasn’t convincing, listen to Denzel!