“The Debt We Owe to Fathers”

For the first time in history, our lives are becoming ever more dependent on machines. While this may seem like a good thing to many people, it’s another trend that is increasingly having an impact on relationships between men and women.

“The Debt We Owe to Fathers” is a blog post by the “art of manliness” website. The article talks about how important it is for fathers to be there for their children. Read more in detail here: art of manliness fatherhood.

“What We Owe to Our Fathers” From 1923’s The Job of Being a Dad Frank H. Cheley is the author of this article.

Most boys never truly appreciate their fathers until they are gone – often until they have their own sons to perplex, harass, and cause them to look back through the years to boyhood once more, and it is then that all that Dad meant in their growing lives dawns on them, and they yearn for some way to fling back the past and tell the Dad that he is no longer just what they truly think of him now.

My mind wanders back to my own humble abode while I write. My father comes down the street, bent and tired after a hard day of heavy work, presumably placing bricks on a scaffold, his dinner pail in hand, his boots and occasionally his face spattered with new lime, his fingers broken and aching. No father has ever been more devoted to his family and his children! He was sometimes unusually quiet, too tired to frolic, play, or even talk. I can imagine him now, having finished his plain meal, relaxing in his own chair by the window while Mother told us about the day or a half dozen of us bombarded him with a hundred questions or a half dozen absurd requests. He would frequently take us kids on a stroll on a Sunday afternoon to view the new buildings that were being built, and he would take great care to explain everything and how pleased he was of every unusual souvenir that we produced with our own hands. I particularly remember a shabby log cabin model I created for a beloved instructor. To me, it symbolized inexhaustible work. “Kid, you’ll amount to something yet,” he remarked quietly, resting his hand on my shoulder after looking it over compassionately and commenting on this and that aspect. Dad’s genuine gratitude was a watershed moment in my growth as a young lad.

Yet, how many times did I misinterpret his apparent lack of enthusiasm for the things that loomed large in my boyish egotism, and how many times did I take advantage of a weary toiler for his flock and accept without so much as a word of appreciation a hundred benefits that I felt were my just due in my boyish egotism?

I couldn’t see how any parent could turn down a single request from his own kid, regardless of whether or not the request was beneficial to me. I didn’t understand why males had to go to bed or why they couldn’t sleep in as late as they wanted in the morning. I couldn’t see why I had to chop the wood on Saturday when I had intended to go fishing, or why he shouldn’t trim the grass after ten hours of effort on a brick wall if he desired a huge lawn.


I’m afraid I have to admit that as a child, I was a very unappreciative child, particularly of my father — and then came that day, which must come to every ambitious kid – the day he sets out into the world on his own. When a youngster reaches the point when he must live without his father, it is a watershed event in his life! The new trunk was loaded onto a truck and delivered to the station. A large kid with a new suit, shoes, and hat had several “private sessions” with his mother, during which everything was discussed. Father had been unusually quiet. He was on the edge of saying something many times, only to suddenly turn away and maybe leave the room. It was time to say our goodbyes. That anxious hour was when a particular huge, proud, half-defiant child found his Dad – and for the first time truly recognized the buddy he was leaving behind!

Hands touched, a smooth soft one against a rough calloused one. There was a different grip on his hand; there was a look in those gray eyes that I had never noticed before; a yearning that I didn’t understand at the time because I hadn’t yet become the father of a boy; and then he said, with a quaver in his voice that I hadn’t heard before, as he thrust a small roll of bills into my hand, “Here, kid, it isn’t much, but it will help you if you get You can pay it back if I ever need it more than you do. It’s yours if I don’t.” There was a tight little squeeze, a sliver of a tear that was immediately wiped away, and suddenly we knew each other man to man. When the train arrived, there were the customary goodbyes, but my father’s “Keep a stiff upper lip, lad.” stood out above them all. “I’m depending on you to be a force to be reckoned with.” As I gazed down into that face that day, I was struck by the steel gray hair, the toil-bent shoulders, the majesty and quiet power of the man who had worked for me, fought for me, and planned for me for all of my youth; who had prepared me as best he could to take my place in the world and to bear his name with honor.

We were brought closer together from that day forward. Every experience out in the world brought my father back to me, and his wise suggestion and counsel stood me in good stead again and again, and even now, as I write, with a lad of my own challenging me in a hundred different ways, I am acutely aware of the debt I owe my father, and as I read biographies of men and meet fathers all over the world, I become more acutely aware of not only my personal debt, but of the great debt that all men everywhere owe to


In his narrative “What My Father Did for Me,” our beloved Edgar Guest, who, more than any other contemporary writer, has painted for us the perfect father-son connection, says:

“He had a way of drawing my attention to guys he wanted me to know on our walks together, and he always spoke about them.” He seemed to be serving as a magnifying glass for me, increasing other people’s positive characteristics such that I could see them clearly. I’ve never seen a great guy without my father explaining why he was great, and I’ve never seen a horrible man without my father explaining why he was awful. In this manner, I learnt what characteristics to seek for and what flaws to avoid. He was teaching me by example, and I had no idea I was being taught.

He left us little in the way of material possessions, but when I go over the pages of my memory and recollect the magnificence of his service, I realize that my debt to him is one that no amount of good I can do or be would ever be able to fully repay.

His bequests to me were for the greater and nicer things in life.

He is responsible for the years of calm and contentment that I have enjoyed.

Because my father taught me how to form enduring connections, I have developed good and real friends.

Because he showed me where happiness might be found, I’ve discovered a lot of happiness in my life.

Because he educated me well, I have gone not far, but safely.

By the sensitivity and brilliance of his advice, I have been spared regret, humiliation, anguish, and the inconvenience of unthinking errors; and seldom a day goes by, even now, that I do not find some fresh vein of riches in my inheritance from him.”

In writing on his father’s impact in preparing him to be a great teacher, a well-known college professor makes the following stunning remarks about his father:

“I owe my father the interests and instincts that led me to become a college professor.” By circumstance, he was a trader, but by instinct, he was a scholar. His library was his pride and joy, and if luck had been on his side, he would have retired early and lived among his books. My fondest childhood recollections revolve around his huge library, which included a cheery open fireplace above which he had written the legend:

‘I’d rather be a pauper living in an attic than a monarch who despises literature.’

He filled my childish head with Greek tales and Old Norse folklore in lieu of the Mother Goose. I was enthralled by Plutarch’s Lives, and I’ll never forget the magic of being curled up in one of his enormous leather recliners, listening to him tell me about the siege of Troy and Ulysses’ lengthy wanderings.


He would add that a home without books isn’t a home at all, and as an outspoken guy who doesn’t care what others think, he made no secret of his disdain for some of his business associates who crammed their homes with luxurious furniture for the body but nothing to feed the mind.

‘A man who loves literature, my son, has made himself master of time and circumstance,’ he remarked vehemently to me. ‘He is a citizen of all eras, and he counts among his friends the greatest brains of each century.’ He can call them to speak with him whenever he wants – and then dismiss them without retaliation. He is unconcerned about money, friendship, or entertainment. Allow him to pick up a book, and he will be whisked away to a prince’s court, or allowed to a great general’s confidences, or positioned in the front row to see one of the world’s great tragedies. If you want to get money, do so. It is beneficial. But, most importantly, obtain books. Because the older you become, the more you’ll realize that they are the source of the greatest happiness in life.’”

Illustrations of this kind might be added forever. There is no end to them; wonderful tales of dads educating, training, and leading sons along pathways they had envisioned but never pursued.

Kermit Roosevelt offers us an up-close look at his great-enormous grandfather’s effect on his kids’ life. “The Happy Hunting Grounds,” Kermit’s wonderful book of reminiscences, says:

“When we were tiny, Father constantly plunged himself into our plays and romps as if he were no older than us, and with everything that he had seen, done, and gone through, there was never anybody with such a fresh and exuberant attitude.” His incredible adaptability and focus and absorption abilities were unrivaled. He could switch gears from debating the most pressing issues facing the country to romping with us kids as if nothing else mattered.

When my brother and I received word of my father’s death in a little village in Germany, Kipling’s sentences kept flowing through my thoughts with relentless insistency:

‘Even as he trod that day to God, in simpleness, gentleness, honor, and clean mirth, he scarce had need to doff his pride, Or slough the dress of earth, E’en as he trod that day to God, E’en as he trod that day to God, E’en as he trod that day to God, E’en as he trod that day to God, E’en as he trod that day to

That was my father, whose companionship and wisdom so many of us at the Happy Hunting Grounds look forward to.”



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