I said a final goodbye to him 10 years ago this summer. After nearly 40 years of slowly, inexorably losing his battle with emphysema, my father, Frank Henry Wiedmer, went to a better, less painful place.
His 79 years on this planet were both a triumph for determination and a tragedy for decision-making, since he almost assuredly would have lived much longer without his addiction to demon tobacco.
Still, that Father's Day weekend of 2008 always will remain special to me because it was my last such holiday to soak in my dad's goodness and wisdom. The 1947 valedictorian of Bowling Green (Kentucky) High School never was off his game mentally despite being physically dependent on an oxygen machine for the final 10 years of his life.
In that odd way that life so often laughs at us, it was also the last time Tiger Woods — never one of my dad's favorites — won a major golf championship, His Stripeness outlasting Rocco Mediate over 18 playoff holes at Torrey Pines the day after Father's Day.
Because my wife and I had taken our two daughters to the beach that Sunday afternoon, I wasn't forced to witness Dad's frustration at another Tiger triumph. Instead, giving him a quick phone call after Woods had limped to victory on a bad knee and a broken leg, as miraculous a performance as we may ever witness in pro golf, my dad grudgingly said, "Oh, well, it might be time to admit he just might be the best ever. Besides, I've got more important things to worry about than Tiger winning another major."
Nevertheless, every Father's Day afternoon, another U.S. Open winding down — and none of them adding to the 14th major Tiger won that long-ago day at Torrey Pines — I can't help but think back to 2008 and that final Dad's Day with my old man.
Of course, we probably don't give enough thought or credit to either our moms or dads on every day except Mother's Day and Father's Day. For better or worse, each of us is at least partly, if not hugely, who we are because of them, and if you were fortunate enough — as my sister and I were — to have both of your parents around until you were at least 50, you were overwhelmingly blessed.
That my parents' marriage lasted 56 years, that they were faithful and respectful, loving and compassionate, helpful and honorable the whole time they were together, their shining example the best lesson we could have had on how to lead our adult lives, only made our time with them all the better.
But as a society, if we tend to place our moms on higher pedestals than our fathers, well, a lot of distant dads have earned that dynamic.
At least a third of the children in this country live without their biological fathers in their lives. According to a 2017 National Public Radio interview with noted childhood education expert Alan Blankstein — author of "Failure Is Not an Option" — seven out of 10 high school dropouts are fatherless (meaning there is no father at home). According to studies he cited, children without a father in their lives are up to twice as likely to commit suicide. Blankstein also noted that girls without a father figure are as much as twice as likely to be obese and four times more likely to become pregnant as teenagers.
Beyond that, a recent U.S. Department of Education study showed 39 percent of students in first through 12th grades are fatherless. Forget immigration, North Korea's nuclear arsenal and tariffs. The absence of males willing to take emotional and financial responsibility for the children they father is the greatest threat to the future prosperity of this country.
Don't misunderstand. I couldn't be further from perfect. I don't pretend to have all the answers or even to ask all the right questions. But there were five or six things my father tried to instill in me — and I certainly didn't always follow them as well as I might have — that everyone should consider.
No. 1: Choose only a date who would make a good mate. Both young men and young women need at least to consider this, especially before the woman becomes pregnant.
No. 2: Never buy anything on credit except a house. Debt will destroy your dreams.
No. 3: Take half of every raise you receive and forget you have it. Put it away for a rainy day, because those always come.
No. 4: Always put your family first, both your wife and your children. Love them, honor them, cherish them and do everything you can to provide them food, clothing and shelter.
No. 5: Other than your love and your time, nothing you can give your children is more important than a quality education.
No. 6: Practice the Golden Rule in everything you do.
Less than six months into his presidency in 2009, Barack Obama, who grew up without a father, was asked to pen a Father's Day piece for Parade Magazine.
Wrote Obama: "In many ways, I came to understand the importance of fatherhood through its absence — both in my life and in the lives of others. I came to understand that the hole a man leaves when he abandons his responsibility to his children is one that no government can fill. We can do everything possible to provide good jobs and good schools and safe streets for our kids, but it will never be enough to fully make up the difference."
That at least 33 percent of biological fathers apparently believe their failure to live up to that responsibility is a viable option could wind up becoming the biggest hindrance to America ever being truly great again.
Contact Mark Wiedmer at email@example.com.