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What Dads Do

One of the best pictures I’ve ever seen on the current confusion of the placement of fathers comes from Erma Bombeck. She paints a portrait of a little girl who loved her dad but wasn’t sure what dads do:

One morning my father didn’t get up and go to work. He went to the hospital and died the next day. I hadn’t thought that much about him before. He was just someone who left and came home and seemed glad to see everyone at night. He opened the jar of pickles when no one else could. He was the only one in the house who wasn’t afraid to go into the basement by himself.

He cut himself shaving, but no one kissed it or got excited about it. It was understood when it rained, he got the car and brought it around to the door. When anyone was sick, he went out to get the prescription filled. He took lots of pictures...but he was never in them.

Whenever I played house, the mother doll had a lot to do. I never knew what to do with the daddy doll, so I had him say, “I’m going off to work now,” and threw him under the bed.

The funeral was in our living room and a lot of people came and brought all kinds of good food and cakes. We had never had so much company before.

I went to my room and felt under the bed for the daddy doll. When I found him, I dusted him off and put him on my bed.

He never did anything. I didn’t know his leaving would hurt so much

Family—The Ties that Bind...and Gag! (New York: Fawcett Books, 1988), p. 2.