This Sunday, June 17, is Father’s Day, a date set aside to honor dads for their parenting efforts. While most dads may not clock as many hours on duty with their offspring as moms do, their influence, love and support are invaluable in raising successful, well-adjusted children.
Many dads I know, even those with fast-paced careers here in Tokyo, are to be commended for finding the time to nurture their children, both physically and emotionally, from infancy through adolescence.
Each stage brings different opportunities to share experiences and instill values, and the rewards are great for dads who embrace these responsibilities.
A father is fortunate if he has a devoted partner to mother his children, but I know a few dads who manage to do it pretty much on their own. I’ve learned a lot about parenting from watching my neighbor, Bobby Burgoyne, raise three outstanding kids by himself.
When we first moved to this area, I noticed that the Burgoyne house was not as well kept as most of the other houses, but there was no doubt that his children were the most well-behaved on the block.
I gradually learned that Mr. Burgoyne had lost everything in a bad business deal a few years before; he went from being president of a big construction company to owning a small paving business.
To make things worse, his wife left him for a boyfriend she met on the Internet, a humiliating scenario for Mr. Burgoyne and his children, who opted to stay with their dad.
I got to know his younger boys who were the same age as mine; his oldest was a daughter and, over the years, I watched her navigate high school with self-confidence and success.
When Marissa was turning 16, Bobby called me one day to ask me if I knew a Japanese restaurant that was affordable. He had overheard Marissa telling a friend that she’d like to try sushi so he planned to celebrate by taking her to a Japanese restaurant, just the two of them. He took off from work and picked her up at school; many of her friends were getting a car for their 16th birthday, or a big party, but when I talked to Marissa she was thrilled that her dad had thought of the sushi lunch.
I never saw a dad enjoy his kids as much as Bobby Burgoyne. He made all the games, watching Marissa cheerlead, Bobby Jr. play football, and his youngest, T.J., play lacrosse. He had a huge vegetable garden that he got all the neighborhood kids to help tend. Sometimes when I’d drive by late at night, I’d see him up canning tomatoes or making everyone’s lunch for the next day.
Mr. Burgoyne loved to have his children’s friends over for barbecues in the backyard and sometimes he’d make big bonfires that had the neighbors complaining. There was a huge trampoline in the backyard too, and in the summer Bobby would sleep out there with the boys. He was a little eccentric, but so fun-loving and affectionate that his kids and their friends adored him.
I’ll never forget one summer day when I drove up to the Burgoyne house to pick up my children. They had gone over to play with Bobby Jr.’s pet baby squirrel, Rocky. I guess Bobby Jr. was about 12 and he was so proud of this squirrel that they had nursed back to health after it fell from its nest.
His dad had said he could keep it and our children loved to go over and play with Rocky. As I drove up, my youngest came out of the house screaming, “Mom, Rocky’s not breathing, but Mr. Burgoyne is trying to save him!” It turned out that the poor squirrel had attempted to drink from the toilet and had fallen in.
The kids were all watching cartoons and didn’t notice the tragedy until my stepdaughter had to go to the bathroom and came across poor Rocky floating face-up.
The sight that greeted me in the bathroom was Mr. Burgoyne sitting on the toilet cradling Rocky and giving that damned squirrel CPR! He was crying, the kids were crying and I started crying, too! When it was clear that Rocky wasn’t coming back, Mr. Burgoyne comforted Bobby Jr. who was more distraught than anyone else, made a casket out of a shoebox, and we all gave Rocky a proper burial.
Something about that day showed me just how involved Mr. Burgoyne was in his children’s lives, and how much he understood their feelings. The Burgoyne children haven’t had the advantages that so many of us try to provide for our kids: a stable home with two parents and the material wealth to give them whatever they need, but these children have thrived with more than enough love and attention from their dad.
Happy Father’s Day, Mr. Burgoyne, and all you other fathers out there who are doing your best, no matter what the circumstances. There is no other job as important as being a good dad.