Father and Son

June 2004

A poignant image of forty years ago still sticks in my mind. My wife Ruth and I were exploring the back roads of rural Galicia in our tiny SEAT 600. We were driving cautiously in this remote area of northwest Spain because often we would have to slow down to accommodate a farmer leading his oxen to the field. It was quite a scene: the weathered face of the man and the docile expression of the large beasts yoked together, with rabbit pelts between their horns to keep off the flies.

This particular morning I noticed a farmer behind a horse-drawn plow preparing a small patch of field. His son was by the plowman's side -- he couldn't have been much over 7 years old. They were plowing the rocky field together. Sometimes the father would give the reins of the horse to his son so that he would become familiar with that aspect of plowing. As they worked together over the hours, the father would share his thoughts and his skills with his son -- to help his boy to prepare for his role in life as an adult. The traditions of the family were being passed to the next generation in a very natural way.

About twenty years later, Ruth and I found ourselves flying into Madrid hours after the attempted coup (golpe). Elements of the Guardia Civil had invaded the Cortes firing automatic weapons and were holding about 350 MP's hostage. We had to gingerly weave our way through heavily armed men to get to our hotel room located down the street from the parliament building! Inside the Cortes was high drama.

The king, Juan Carlos, had to choose between the Falangists who would enhance his power, or the young democracy that was hanging by a thread. Many lives were in the balance. In the midst of the crisis that would define his place in history, the king called to have his 12 year old son by his side. Just as the farmer wanted to share his skills and thoughts with his son to prepare him for his role in life, so Juan Carlos wanted his son Felipe to learn what it was to be a king.

A little over twenty more years have passed since that fateful time. The bonding of father and son, king and prince, which started that critical night, has borne fruit. Spain has become the envy of Europe as a prospering democracy, and the nation celebrates a royal wedding where it shares in the pride of Juan Carlos and Sofía as their son Felipe married Letizia.

Today as I write this, Ruth and I enjoy watching our son Jonathan playing with Sarah, his 19 month old daughter. Even at this young age she learns from her father's love and experiences his values. Our son Tim loves to go fishing with his 4-yr old son. When they are out on the boat together Tim teaches Sam how to get the bait, cast the line, and allows him "take the reins" of the boat. These are precious times between fathers and their children.

What a joy it is to be a father and see your sons grow strong as they themselves become husbands and fathers. Fathers provide a foundation for their children, whether they are farmers plowing fields, kings governing nations, or regular men teaching their children what they value in life.

Happy Father's Day, from our family to yours -- con un abrazo!

Tu amigo,