JOHN NEWTON’S FATHER
John Newton (1725-1807) the English cleric the author. of the hymn “Amazing Grace” once wrote: ”I know that my father loved me, but he never seemed to want me to know it.”
Many men (especially of the baby boomer generation) like John Newton, grew up confident of their father's love for them, but without many if any expressions of it. Most of these grew up during the Great Depression and World War II era. During the Great Depression they contributed to their families' efforts to survive in every way they could. Many (my own father included) did back-breaking work far from home in CCC camps (google this out) for $30 a month, $25 of which was deducted and sent to their families, and then, still in their teens or barely into their twenties, they went to war.
Fathers of baby boomers grew up when the love of fathers for their children was expressed and assumed by virtue of the daily toil and selfless sacrifice for them that they demonstrated. Generally speaking, these men, belonging to what’s been called “the greatest generation,” took their cues for fatherhood from their own fathers as to what constitutes love for family.
My father’s times were times when men (and women) commonly stayed with an unhappy marriage and tried to “make it work” primarily for the sake of their children; times when men worked 40 or 50 years at a job they didn’t particularly like to provide security for their families; times when it didn’t occur to men to desert their families in order to “find” or otherwise gratify themselves. Those were times when little if any thought, time and money was available for vacations, other family "outings," special father/son events or “daddy-daughter dates,” etc. But these were times when families knew more security, love and loyalty, and had happier overall outcomes than they do today.
Most houses were small when I grew up. Families lived closely together and comfortable enough in them. They were used mainly for sleeping and eating, not for the “cocooning” of family members in different areas of the house. After work and school families did outside choirs and/or played until dark. Neighbors played softball together once or twice a month in the biggest yard available. People knew the difference between a "house" and a "home" and didn't use these words synonymously. They knew a house is something people live in, while a home is a place where kinfolk love and are loved. It wasn't like today when many people living in houses big and small are as homeless as derelicts living under bridges and in cardboard boxes.
Many of us knew growing up that our father’s loved us, though it seemed they didn’t want us to know it, As with most things, time and maturity bring clarity of perspective and the understanding that real fatherly love is evidenced by more than words, “quality time” scheduled with children, visits made every other weekend with them, or dollars spent on them. Real evidence of fatherly love is seen in what men are willing to do, and to deny themselves, for the sake of their families over the long haul. It’s evidenced by the consciousness and confidence children have that their fathers, are “there,” and will always be "there" for them, as long as they live.
As fathers, we need to give our children, (1) every reason to assume that we love them, and (2) no reason to wonder whether or not we want them to know it.