Thursday, June 16, 2016

     I’m struck by two equally powerful forces upon hearing the words “Father” or “Dad”.  Being the age of retirement I now clearly define my own fatherhood by the expression, “Father is the Son of Man”.  Just as I had influenced my dad, my sons continue to illuminate my path.  Drew, Greg and I are getting together in a few days to celebrate our special relationship.

     The connection I shared with my dad seemed tricky and somewhat distant to the untrained observer.   Complicated, probably best describes the father/son relationship we navigated.  My dad, Joe, never had it easy fulfilling his definition of fatherhood.  He so struggled to make a living for his family of four.  But through a combination of enterprises he kept us afloat.  His worried expression seldom fell from our view.

     My mother was quite attractive, but it seldom came easy for dad to share the intricacies of his life with her given her moods and blast of narcissism.   But, my dad’s devotion and love for his wife still serves as an inspiration and model for me to this day.  They kissed and hugged a lot as do my wife and I today.  We don’t need a reason.  Like my parents, we just do.

     When I was a boy of 4, dad needed a diversion from the pressures of work and home.  He found that positive respite in Masonry.   Here’s dad and our family 63 years ago, just before he joined the Fraternal Order.

     For the many of the next 33 years I resented his frequent evening absences from his family.  What was it about his wife, daughter and me that made it seem like he favored his “Masonic brothers” over us?  I felt abandoned.  My feelings toward him transformed during a long illness I battled in my 20’s.  It was dad who comforted me, encouraged me and supported me.  I had missed the point about his devotion to his family.  Far from abandoned I was loved.  Joe Fink was there for his ill son.  He always was there for me.

     After 62 years I now understand dad joined the Masons not for him, but for us, especially for his son, me.  He was a better man, and a better father.  He rose through the ranks of the Masons eventually receiving the invitation to become a 33rd degree Mason.  Some say it is the highest degree in Masonry.  Some say it is the third degree that ranks supreme in Masonry.  I’ll leave that up to the Masons to debate.  

     A fellow MWW member and Mason, Nevin, told me of the significance of the 33rd degree.  Nevin explained that this degree is based on service to country, family, community, and Masonry.   He told me character was a driving standard of acceptance into the 33rd degree of Masonry.  I never understood the significance that my father made to Masons and his family until my conversation with Nevin.  His service to Masonry was a service to his family because it kept him balanced and happy.

     Nevin wondered when my dad died.  I told him 1995.  Nevin asked how many attended my father’s funeral.  I told him it was a bitter cold day in January with 4 inches of snow on the ground, yet more than 250 people attended his funeral.  Nevin just said, “Yes.  Your dad was a 33 degree Mason”.

     Before my father died we exchanged powerful words of love.  I gave him a plaque I had made for him honoring his service to Masonry and his love and devotion to his family.  I never saw his tears cascade until that moment.

     Then it was his turn a few weeks later.  In his own poignant way he confided, “Son, you are a far better father than I was to you”.  Life came full circle.  As they say, “Son is the father of man.”  It wasn't that I was a better father.  I learned fatherhood from a 33rd degree Mason.  I only hope my sons see their father as half the man their grandfather was. 

     Often, I’m asked why I started Men’s Wisdom Works.  Truthfully, I was having a difficult time finding meaning in my life after closing my business and retiring.  I needed to talk with like-minded men.  Thus I founded MWW.  But, my inspiration was and is 100% Joe Fink.  I learned from this past Master Mason, that inherent in fatherhood is brotherhood.

Joe Fink, I miss you and I will forever love you.

By the way, dad loved a party.  Here he is in his true colors.

Happy Father's Day to the men of MWW and fathers everywhere.