Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Honor Thy Father
by Father Mark Pautler, for the Inland Register
(From the June 16, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)
On my strolls through the neighborhoods of southeast Spokane, I occasionally pass by the ďDodd HouseĒ at 603 S. Arthur. The monument in the front yard makes it evident that this home is not only renovated, but also revered. This once was the home of Sonora Smart Dodd, daughter of William Smart. Many readers are aware that Sonora was the ďMother of Fatherís Day.Ē The extensive inscription on the monument that was placed in the yard in 2010 to mark the 100th anniversary of Fatherís Day tells the story of Sonoraís inspiration to honor her father and all fathers. Thatís what I would like to do.
My dad, Francis, was born in 1911 and died in 1999. Mother said that ďFrancisĒ was perfect for him. The name coveys mildness and humility.
The Dodd House. (IR photo courtesy of Father Pautler)
Dad was always known as Francis, never Frank. He was a good man. In worldly terms his life was a modest one. His education was meagre. His business success was unremarkable. Or to put it in
another way, he never made a lot of money. For most of his working life he was a meat cutter at independent markets in Walla Walla. The stores I remember were Red Star, Gardeners, Model Grocery and
Collins Market. All of them are gone now. For a few years, he worked at Safeway. Those were especially good years, not because of the salary, but because he worked only 5 Ĺ days a week. Working for the
independents, he was usually the only man behind the meat case, six days a week. He was never sick. He did break his leg once, falling from a ladder while painting the house, but before long he was in
a cast and on crutches behind the counter. When he retired from his trade, he held a few part-time jobs that gave him something different to do. He enjoyed that. But his primary occupation was still
his home and, to be clear about it, ďmaintenance of mother.Ē Momís wholehearted devotion to her teaching profession kept dad busy. Mom was forever coming up with ideas for props and teaching aids that
Dad would build. By the time they moved out of their home on Catherine Street, the garage was full of these projects. They are all gone, too.
Dadís working life is not the whole story, of course. But it figures so much in my memory because he had to work so long and so hard and for so little. When Dad wasnít at work, he was home. There was no drinking. There were no sports. There were no pals with whom he could go out to a ball game, a card game, or a visit to the bar. He was a Knight of Columbus and attended the Council meetings. And that was it. Otherwise, he was with his family. He built his home within by his constant presence, and added it to our old home on Willow Street, enlarging it from two bedrooms and one bath to four bedrooms and two baths. That home is gone, too.
The central chapter in the book of Dadís life is his faith. Our home was a sanctuary because of him. The ritual of family prayer with the rosary as the centerpiece must be the foundation of my own prayer life. I donít share my Dadís personal devotion to the rosary, but to him it meant everything, as though the beads and cross were the chain and anchor that kept his life secure and gave him the reassurance that our Lord was near. He needed that presence, especially in his last years as he worried about his son, Philip, and how Philip would navigate the world with the burden of mental illness that he carried. St. Joseph, too, held a place of prominence in Dadís devotional life. Obviously. Protector of the Holy Family, patron of workers, faithful spouse, the man of few words. Well, in the case of Joseph there are no words. Dad had at least a few things to say.
The author Robert Bly (Iron John, a Book about Men, 1990) has made the observation that the Industrial Revolution changed the relationship of fathers and sons. In the agricultural economy, sons worked with their father. They learned to be men working beside their father, just as girls learned womanhood working with their mother. With the Industrial Revolution, this pattern changed. The father no longer worked with his sons, but was exiled to the factory or foundry. Exhausted by his labor, he returned home to children who needed a fatherís tenderness and teaching, but now were exposed primarily to his temper.
I will admit that Dad had a temper. I pulled enough stunts to aggravate that temper. But I also was exposed to his tenderness and his teaching. My mechanical skills are meager in comparison to his. I was much better at breaking things (especially windows) than fixing them, and taking things apart that he had to put together. However, there finally came a day when Dadís natural mechanical instincts proved insufficient. We worked together to install an electric garage door opener. Dad didnít know where to begin. I said, ďMaybe we need to look at the directions.Ē Working together and with the help of the directions, we got the job done. Fathers donít necessarily want their sons to do what they do. They want them to learn, and do it better. Sons can learn from their fathers, and sometimes they recognize just how they should do it better when their turn comes.
I briefly visited with Jerry and Beverlee Numbers, current owners of the Dodd House. They host an open house on Fatherís Day, and will make available to the public this beloved, historic treasure of Spokane that they have renovated and restored. Fatherís Day can be for each of us a day to remember, to restore, and even to reconcile.
(Father Pautler is Judicial Vicar and Chancellor of the Spokane Diocese.)
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