A tale of two fathers

By Mary Gaylord. Reprinted from Huffington Post


My father is a conservative, mid-western man of great principle. He is a practicing Catholic, a devoted husband, and he’s the first person I know of to recycle and compost. He loves the wilderness, he loves to garden, and he has volunteered countless hours to the community food bank in his small rural town in Wisconsin.

He is Republican and he voted for Donald Trump.

My father-in-law is the most progressive person I know of his generation. He lives in a bedroom community in New Jersey. He has great devotion to family and friends and would give you the shirt off his back any day of the week. He has traveled the world and seen humanity in all it’s forms. He and my mother-in-law like to play the “who was poorer” game when talking about their childhood experiences growing up in rural Pennsylvania.

He is Progressive and he voted for Hillary Clinton.

These two men are iconic figures in my life. They both come from a generation that knew what it was like to be poor, to help your fellow man, to serve your country, and to be a patriot. They come from a time when the office of the President of the United States deserved respect regardless of whether you voted for the person or not.

Theirs was a time when family members and friends might have heated conversations about politics, but the relationships between them were always more important.

Theirs was a time when you focused on neighbors, friends, and family; when you made eye contact with others and offered a “hello” or a smile as you passed someone on the street; when you had block parties with your neighbors, and shared a beer on the front porch.

I have heard my father-in-law speak about a time when he used to go to the bank and the teller would greet him by name and ask about his wife and kids. He’s regaled me with stories about his neighborhood and the sense of community and belonging that once was — a time when neighbors knew each other, helped each other; took care of each other.

Something my own father has recently said haunts me as I write this and causes me deep sadness. My father is 85 and he has said he is glad to be nearing the end of his life as it pains him to see the way people treat each other these days. The utter lack of civility and respect for one another is something he wishes to be witness to no longer. He fears for his children and his grandchildren. He is made weary by the violence, the vitriol, and the ugliness besieging our relationships as human beings and as a nation.

Politically, there is very little on which my father and my father-in-law would agree. But in this, they are united:  There is a lack of basic decency, courtesy, and respect between people and it is unraveling our relationships, our families, and our nation.

For this Father’s Day, I honor my father and father-in-law, two political opposites; men of great integrity who can agree that we have done better and we must do better.

Mary Gaylord is a Program Development Partner with Living Room Conversations, an organization committed to bringing together people with differences in a friendly, structured, conversational format. She has worked as a community mediator, victim-offender reconciliation specialist, and facilitator of bully prevention programming for school-aged children. She lives in the Rocky Mountains and is passionate about spending time outdoors with family and friends.