Every day my wife goes to work underscores the importance of the upcoming celebration of Father's Day. Cynthia works for Children and Family Services as a Due Diligence Clerk. She tries to track down and contact absent parents. The majority are male.
This attempted connection is mandated by the Welfare and Institution Code of California to proceed in resolving child welfare cases. In her best-effort search, my wife investigates death records, DMV, prison and other databases from all over the country.
I, for one, count my blessings nobody searched for my dad. I had a father active in my formative years. Sure, I grew up in the '50s, hardly the height of touchy-feely. Back then, dad meant breadwinner, not nurture.
He came home expecting to comfort tired feet, not childhood egos. Dads opted for slippers, Walter Cronkite and a cold beer; not homework help, adolescent counseling or Scout mentoring.
The birds and the bees? That topic buzzed outside the realm of home sweet home. We've surely, then, made societal progress on the sensitivity front. That said, just having the presence of a male figure in the home spelled foundational bedrock. Inarguably, parents, by mere example, are the first and most enduring teachers.
My dad, as legions before, brought alpha constancy. You didn't need today's voluminous research to prove that even the simple act of sharing a family meal on a daily basis countered some of life's unpredictably.
Dad was a font of everyday practical wisdom. The lessons went beyond learning how to use a saw or change a tire.
My father was an immigrant who jumped a government ship in fleeing rising Nazi Germany. He came to the states with little more than the shirt on his back but navigated us through a Yorkville (Germantown), Manhattan hi-rise tenement, to an Astoria Queens garden apartment, to a home in Great Neck, Long Island. It was the American dream played out before my eyes.
As an executive chief at a large New York City insurance company, dad rose at 4 a.m. every day to take a bus and subway to his job. No guessing for me what hard work looked like.
My father was a Mason. He didn't moralize but also didn't muddle right from wrong. Character, honesty and values defined him. As a child of the Great Depression, thrift and sacrifice were in his DNA.
Dad was a devoted husband. Without pontificating on the subject, again, through osmosis, I was imbued with priorities in life -- God, family and country mattered most.
Life was never a bowl of cherries for Horst Ruehlig. He was an orphan, who later lost his sisters to the Dresden bombings; his wife to early-on cancer; and my brother to a nervous breakdown.
Yet my dad showed me how to grin and bear it. He never complained about his lot in life. Instead, he carried himself through life's travails with grit, stoicism, wit and good cheer.
Sadly, the institution of fathering now suffers.
So many falsely confuse manhood with sperm. Having babies seems the vogue; not raising them. In fact, some 40 percent of American kids, 70 percent in some communities, now grow up without a dad in the home.
Lord knows, parenting is tough enough with two adults, complementary male and female, working full time at it.
Consider the sad statistics. Fatherless homes essentially triple the chances of a child dropping out of school, ending up in prison, being chronically unemployed, or falling into a life of drugs. The stakes are obviously high.
Men, your community cries out for you. Your kids cry out for you. There are no parenting redoes, no second chances. Not for you. Crueller yet, not for your kid.
Walter Ruehlig is a resident of Antioch.