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About the cover

D e s e r t   E x p o s u r e  June 2012



Giving Dad His Due

A thoughtful belch in honor of Father's Day.


In the pantheon of venerated national holidays, few hold as much gravitas as Father's Day. Slotting in somewhere between Groundhog Day and National Dyspeptic Ulcer Awareness Day, Father's Day is nearly as sacrosanct as Mother's Day, just without all the pomp and subservient attitudes. As a father of 18 years myself, I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to another shaving mug or tie-dye "#1 Dad" T-shirt to confirm my importance to the child-rearing process. Of course, a father doesn't need material things from his children as testament to his parental efficacy, but — well, actually, maybe we do. In which case, you ingrates better step up your game this year.

The role of a father is complex and often overlooked because the mother steals the limelight by enduring nine months of painful discomfort and disgorging something the size of a microwave oven. The entire gestation and whelping process is all about the mother, which is fine since men don't like attending baby showers anyway. Once the child is born, the role of father becomes absolutely vital: We must learn to prepare Hamburger Helper, lovingly wake the mother up when the baby's crying, and act like we don't notice when the diaper is overflowing. At this critical time, the presence of a father is as important to the baby's development as, say, a stapler. Fathers serve no purpose for the child other than a transport mechanism to convey them to the milk machine.

After the first year or so, the baby begins to bond in a more meaningful way with the father. This stage is also known as "teething," when the baby screams for hours on end for no reason other than to drive the mother out of the house to have lunch with her girlfriends while daddy does "his share" and stays with the caterwauling organism. This is a special time when children first connect with their fathers, as they are greatly amused by his red face, bulging eyes and penchant for alcohol.

It gets better when they start talking, so you can tell them to be quiet. At this point, a father really begins to shine: Sons are secretly taught the manly art of peeing outside, and girls teach daddy the feminine art of playing with Barbie. Fathers love to take kids to animated movies in dark theaters where dads can nap, a special memory that children will cherish forever. From teaching them how to play video games to shooting a BB gun, a father's guidance is appreciated.

It's not all fun and games, however: Sometimes, a father has to be stern. Children must be properly taught on how to bring a beer from the cooler without shaking it up. They must always show respect for their elders, even the stupid ones. A proper emphasis on homework and the importance of chores is not only invaluable to character building, but it lets a father retain possession of the remote control longer.

Despite all of the invaluable inspiration a father can provide, the day will come when the child leaves home. This can be a melancholy time, when a father becomes emotional and feels himself getting choked up. Once he repurposes the kid's bedroom into a home theater with big-screen wonderfulness and surround sound, the moment passes and fathers can luxuriate in the freedom of being able to watch TV in their underwear again. The mother might insist on having the kid over for dinner or — worse yet — go visit them out of town, but a loving father will realize that the child needs his or her space.

Given all that we fathers do, it would behoove society as a whole to revisit the importance of Father's Day. When Mother's Day rolls around, all of civilization falls over itself to pay tribute with flowers and candies and special meals and little greeting cards that play music when they are opened. Restaurants are booked solid, and street vendors sprout up on every corner selling detritus like stuffed bears, chocolate flowers and helium balloons in whimsical shapes. Telephone circuits are overloaded with simpering children reaching out to reconnect with their dear mothers.

Yet, Father's Day suffers no such excessiveness. Homer Simpson boxer shorts and Charles Bronson DVDs don't convey affection as clearly as the caliber of bounty the mother receives. And there isn't a father alive who ever said, "I wish I had another paperweight made out of a painted rock."

Speaking as a dad, there are two approaches to ideal Father's Day gestures: The first would be a ride to the strip club in a monster truck with a bed full of twenties, Chuck Norris as your wing man, and bacon frying on the engine. For me, the second, more preferable option would be sitting on the porch, watching the sun set and just talking to my own dad and my kids, sharing a glass of iced tea and telling stories about growing up and raising kids.



Henry Lightcap will be rendezvousing with Chuck Norris
in Las Cruces. Bring bacon.



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