In this age of #metoo (that's hashtag me too for readers of my generation), it feels a little wrong, maybe even a little dangerous, to write a column about men.
But that's never stopped me before, so why should it now?
Besides, it's Father's Day.
I am a father, although I sometimes think I'm not a very good one. I have failed in the tough love department, leaning toward the giving in approach to parenting. That's only been exacerbated in my grandfather role, by the way.
My son, Alex, has managed to become a responsible adult despite my failings. He understands and takes on responsibility. From all indications, he's a great father to Allison, with healthy doses of love tempered by lessons of doing the right thing.
I've had less to do with raising my step-children, but they've all managed to turn out pretty well anyway. Or maybe that's why they turned out well. Who knows?
A bit ironically, John has yet to marry while both his sisters have children (and husbands) of their own. Aimee's got Korie and Carter (and Taylor), while Charlotte has Josephine, Michai and Savannah (and Mike). The families are whole, and for the most part, stable.
Taylor and Mike get some credit for that.
You've undoubtedly noticed by now that I haven't said anything about my dad. That's because he died a while back — almost 12 years ago.
But Harry Mack Saltzgaver III was quite a dad. He taught me how to play baseball, how to ride a bike, why it was important to complete my paper route every day, how to be a gentleman around women and how to provide for a family.
He also taught me how to drink and smoke, but that's another story.
One thing he didn't teach me, at least while I was growing up, was how to express love. I hasten to add that's not a bad thing. He was out of the John Wayne mold of manhood — keep your emotions to yourself and let your actions speak for you.
Saying "I love you" to your son was somehow the opposite of being manly to his generation. If you want to teach a son how to be a man, give him a hammer, or a lawnmower, or a wrench. He'll figure out eventually that you love him.
I got stuck in the whole New Age thing as I became an adult. It was the "Real Men Eat Quiche" time in society, and we were supposed to express our feelings. About Everything. All. The. Time.
I dutifully tried to comply. It was hard — Dad didn't teach me anything about this.
Fortunately, my life situation changed and I found myself in an environment where you had to be a manly man to survive. I got back to cutting my own firewood, fixing my own truck and in general being the man I think my father expected me to be.
A funny thing happened, though. Some of that quiche stuck with me. I found out I could express a feeling or two without giving up my manhood.
And, thanks to both quiche and the God I began to model my fatherhood after, I discovered it was okay to tell my son I loved him. (I only said it after I taught him how to throw a curveball, but still.)
Maybe more important, I also was able to tell my father that I loved him — and hear him say that he loved me — before he died.
I adhere to the manhood code of taking responsibility, doing the right thing, and never, ever, letting anyone see me cry. I also adhere to the new human code of caring, and letting people know I care.
So I can say, in front of everyone, I love you, son (and step-son and sons-in-law). Happy Father's Day.