June 12, 2013
With Fatherís Day coming up Sunday, this strikes me as a good time to offer up a tip to all those dads who fear theyíve fallen short on the fathering front.
Google ďWorst Father Ever.Ē
Iím not talking to the genuinely bad dads here, those of you who are abusive, distant, mean-spirited and lazy. You donít deserve cheering up. Same goes for you Johnny Appleseeds out there who drop their seed and keep walking. Spend the day feeling bad about yourself. Better yet, spend it working so you can send some money to your kids.
No, this is a tip for the rest of us, the great majority of fathers who aim high and work hard to provide the sort of stable, loving and wisdom-driven existence normal humans pray their kids can have. The really great dads do all that and still wish they could do better.
Aiming high means occasionally falling short. But if you are beating yourself up because Sally brought home a ĎCí or Austin got busted sneaking your Johnny Walker Blue (and mixing it with Pepsi, which is the real sin here), donít. Dads are human and humans sometimes miss important games, say the wrong thing at the wrong time, or yell when they ought to hug. So give yourself the gift of perspective and check out the stories of some really, really bad fathers.
Historic figures and celebrities are an easy target. Youíve got Ivan the Terrible, who beat his daughter and murdered his son with a spear to the head. Bing Crosby, who seemed like a sweet enough guy in all those movies, beat and harangued his kids to a degree that two of them killed themselves. And letís not forget the Biblical hero Lot, who somehow scored the title of last righteous man in Sodom despite his willingness to offer up his own daughters to a rape-happy crowd to save a couple of angelic house guests.
But you donít have to go to those extremes to find some genuinely horrific fathering. Take, for instance, the case of Jim Pierce.
Pierce is considered an infamously bad dad in pretty competitive field ó the sports dad. In the early Ď90s, Pierce became a minor celebrity for courtside behavior so bad his daughter, a top-ranked professional tennis player, was forced to hire body guards to keep him away. He was known for threatening and yelling obscenities at his daughter and her 12-year-old competitors during matches. Even today, the rule banning parents for abusive behavior at tennis tournaments is informally named the Pierce Rule.
As abusive as Pierce may have been, at least he showed up for the big day. The same canít be said of Byron Keith Perkins.
In 2006, Perkins was granted a release from jail, where he was awaiting sentencing on gun- and drug-possession charges, so that he could donate a kidney to his dying son. Instead of showing up at the hospital, he ran to the airport and fled the country with his girlfriend, leaving his teenage son to fend for himself. This story has a happy ending. Perkins was arrested in Mexico and extradited. His son got a new kidney from an anonymous donor.
Finally, we have Johnny Eric Marlowe, a North Carolina polygamist who is currently in prison for a variety of offenses including taking the DIY role of fatherhood to an abusive extreme and circumcising his infant sons with a utility life.
In honor of Fatherís Day, I will skip the details of that one. Suffice it to say, it makes missing that game seem downright amiable.