Father’s Day traditions overhauled with the times

It’s part of the Grand Slam of summer holidays.


Father’s Day has a special place in the hot-weather Big Four celebration rotation.

The other three signature days — Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day — have natural, national purposes, honoring fallen military, our county’s independence and its workforce.

Father’s Day — although considered more of a Hallmark holiday, like Valentine’s Day — honors dads.

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Dad’s day sits at the intersection of Grand Slam events. After all, it’s yearly celebrated on the day men’s pro golf crowns its national champion at the U.S. Open — the third of the sport’s four majors.

Now, that’s marketing.

For us kids, Father’s Day has a dual purpose.

To say “thanks” to our dads for putting up with the bratty versions of ourselves … and another chance to grill hot dogs.

There’s a time warp between the other Americana holidays. Those other holidays come in May, July and September.

Those leave long gaps of idle time between fire-roasting weenies.

But, like with everything else, times have changed.

We don’t need a holiday to throw a bunch of meat on an open flame anymore. Grill innovations have made caveman urges an any-day event.

It might have been more fun in the old days when grilling took work. That made it more worth it … for Dad, of course.

Remember rolling out that aluminum bowl on wheels, filling it with charcoal and covering it with flammable liquid just to get started?

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Ahhh, those were the days.

We did have matches and some lighters, though. It wasn’t total “Boy Scout,” slapping rocks together to spark a fire.

There’s no science to it anymore. It’s now a “Top Gun” contraption, strapped to a propane tank, flip a switch and “Boom!” (No. Wait. Hopefully not. Make that “Poof!”)

Instantly, we are in the Hall of Flame.

According to Wikipedia, Father’s Day did start to honor fatherhood and paternal bonds. It’s billed as a celebration of fathers’ influence in society.

Nowadays, that’s become a lost concept.

I come from a time when dads were there and we tried to celebrate in “Leave It to Beaver-Brady Bunch” fashion.

We tried to cook him big breakfasts … well, Mom did. She wouldn’t let us near the open flame of a gas stove.

My dad obliged, even though he never ate breakfast.

We gave him cards and gifts — well Mom did. We didn’t have money or transportation.

We did personalize them, though, by Crayola-ing our names and pictures on them.

Finally, we grilled out — well, Dad did that. Outdoor cooking was his domain.

So, basically, it was like every other day. The parents did all the work.

But hey, it’s the thought that counts.

We all tried to do those Norman Rockwell moments, too.

As tradition had it, we’d get dad to play catch or go to a baseball game. The real “lucky” ones got to see us play a Little League game.

The poor guy did it all, just because his kids made the effort to make the day memorable. In reality, he’d rather be sitting in an air-conditioned house, with a beer, relaxing on what was supposed to be his day.

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A dad’s work is never done.

Back then, dads enjoyed the pageantry of it all. They knew in the heart of hearts; these kind of days fly by quickly.

They realized kids were more than just a tax deduction.

Then there are guys out there like Todd McElwee. He has the opportunity to look at Father’s Day from a different angle.

McElwee is a Hagerstown man who suffered a brain injury that basically sidelined him from the Dad game. It has taken him four years to recover to near normal.

Before his injury, McElwee was a full participant to all the Dad things — both good and tedious — because that’s what dads who love their families do.

Through it all, McElwee gained some perspective. He found out how much his 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son loved him in the ways they tried to help him recover.

He chronicled it all in “Mission: Get Daddy Better,” a children’s book he authored about the ordeal as seen and narrated by his daughter Evie.

These days, McElwee still hasn’t recovered to where he can return to the personal hobbies he enjoyed.

Instead, he’s replaced those activities with more family time. They’re big events that are sometimes taken for granted in “Dad-dom.”

For McElwee, the emphasis is a little different. Father’s DAY is now FATHER’S Day.

It was more celebrating — than being celebrated for — “being” a dad.

In today’s world, that’s a grand slam.

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