By Tom Purcell
I didn’t know it when I was young, but I was one of the luckiest young men on the planet. I had a father who loved me and imposed his will on me.
Fathers were not considered buffoons when I was a young boy in the 1970s. They were not portrayed as they are now on every television sitcom — as a bumbling idiot.
Fathers were respected, even feared. Any time I did something stupid — and there were a lot of those times — I’d hear these dreaded words: “Wait until your father gets home.”
My dad will be the first to tell you that he was not my best friend. No, that would be too easy for him.
He was my champion and his mission in life was to pound sense into me so that I would grow up to be a good man — and avoid the mistakes he made growing up without a father. I certainly didn’t make it easy for him, as I wasn’t exactly a fast learner.
Over the years, I clogged a toilet with an apple core, shattered a picture window with a baseball and hit a golf ball through a neighbor’s window (I fled, was later apprehended, and had to mow a lot of lawns to pay my father back for the cost of a new window).
I lost most of his tools over the years. I was permitted to use them to build shacks and go-karts, so long as I put them back where they belonged. But I often failed to put them back. He’d usually find them in the yard — after hitting them with the lawnmower blade.
Things got especially rocky in my teen years when testosterone was introduced into the mix. Males have their highest levels of testosterone during their teen years — and are prone to do some of the riskiest and dumbest things.
“According (to) the National Institutes of Health, death rates from accidents increase dramatically during early and late adolescence,” reports CBS News. “Death by injury is as much as six times higher among teens age 15 to 19 than kids between age 10 and 14. Overall crime rates are highest among young males.”
And, boy, did I do some risky things — usually with my dad’s car. He never forgave himself for buying a secondhand Ford Pinto with a powerful six-cylinder motor, which allowed me to smoke the right rear wheel — until I got caught.
You see, the only creature on Earth who can tame a testosterone-ravaged teen boy is his dad. And it is worrisome that fewer households than ever have dads living with them. The number of single-parent households has tripled since 1960, reports The Atlantic.
When I see lots of young men participating in mob behavior in Baltimore, my thought is, “Where are their fathers?” — the cranky old creatures who would have tanned our hides as young men had we ever participated in such behavior.
Out of the woodwork come all the experts explaining the nuances and multiple underlying causes of what we have seen in Baltimore as they skim over the biggest cause of them all: Where’s Dad?
How did we ever get to a point where fathers are so maligned? How did we get to a point where we think it is just dandy for moms to have children out of wedlock and raise them on their own? According to Slate, giving birth out of wedlock is the norm for millennials.
One of the best things to ever happen to me was to be blessed with a dad who imposed his will on me. Robbing a young man of that blessing is a crime.
©2015 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and “Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!” is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.