Since the 1960s, fathers have often been portrayed in American popular culture as imbecilic buffoons, sex-crazed maniacs, or both. There have been exceptions, of course, but from Archie Bunker to Al Bundy to Peter Griffin, American fathers have usually been depicted poorly.
Many of the fathers I've known, though, don't match those caricatures in the slightest. Instead, they are caring, generous men who try to do their best—and there are three I'll remember especially fondly this Sunday.
My own father, Ray Devine, was of pure Irish descent and a constant storyteller. He loved to recall, in some detail, his insurance-business dealings and personal encounters with others.
Despite his tendency to talk, he was someone who shared many of life's most important lessons through actions instead of words.
Two years ago, he was with my wife and me in Venice. It was his first visit to that magical place, and he wanted to take a late-afternoon gondola ride. We tried to dissuade him, since it was quite expensive, and we thought it would be hokey. But he insisted, saying that at his age, he'd never be returning to Venice—so he'd pay whatever the price.
With the gondola sliding silently along a quiet neighborhood waterway, the soothing sounds of the Angelus rang out from numerous church bell towers across the city. A few minutes later, the setting sun cast a golden hue upon the majestic white marble mansions that lined an almost-empty Grand Canal.
Without saying a word, my father had reinforced a belief he always held: If you have the opportunity to do something special, and can afford it, go for it! Grab onto life with all your might, because you never know what tomorrow could bring.
That was a philosophy, combined with a curiosity that knew almost no bounds, which my friend Rich Morgan shared. From his interest in different cultures to his enjoyment of the eclectic international music played by KXCI FM 91.3, he was fascinated by what was going on in the world.
Rich was a quiet man surrounded by a seemingly chaotic whirlpool of household and professional activities. But he was also the solid rock upon which his family counted. Even though he didn't say much, when Rich did speak, it was often to ask a pertinent question or share a cogent observation.
The satisfaction Rich took in a job well done was typically exhibited by a wry smile, and was only exceeded in the pride he had in his children, Lily and Clay.
For his part, my father-in-law, Mike Morris, headed a large Phoenix family of Greek descent. He was always there to help them, whatever the occasion.
Mike was a volunteer for organizations ranging from youth sports to the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation. He also regularly appeared as a well-prepared consumer advocate, providing testimony to the Arizona Corporation Commission long before that role became fashionable.
While he gave generously of his time to others, for most of his life, Mike's own attempts at business weren't successful. But after he turned 65, things turned around for him. He became an adjunct professor of consumer affairs at the UA and was paid to speak at consumer conferences across the country.
His last position was as a senior vice president of a Phoenix hospital, where he was in charge of real property acquisition. As part of this job, he considered it his personal responsibility to conscientiously relocate people so the hospital could expand.
Ray, Rick and Mike were in no way like the cartoonish fathers often shown on television over the last 40 years. Instead, they were real men trying to be the best dads they could.
Sadly, none of them are with us any longer. They won't be getting formal greetings this Father's Day—so I would like to use this opportunity to remember them and all of the other fathers who have done fine jobs of preparing their children for what lies ahead.
When writing your life's résumé, these fathers might say to their kids, be sure to experience interest, laughter, love and accomplishment. Do that, and you will have done a good job of living.