by Myrna Maloney Flynn, MCFL President
It is a wise father that knows his own child. - William Shakespeare
“This is not my suitcase.”
After flying solo across the country with three kids under the age of five, then chasing them through the Minneapolis airport, all I wanted was to yank our bags off the luggage carousel and get into my parents’ car as quickly as possible. A couple hours after arriving at their house, I began to unpack. One look at the contents of what I’d thought to be my suitcase told me I had, in my haste, mistakenly snatched some man’s bag.
Thankfully, his phone number was posted inside. I called it. He answered. I apologized. After he assured me that he would have no use for the onesies, pacifiers, and Eric Carle stories in my suitcase, we made plans to meet and swap bags. The problem? He was staying three hours north of where I was. Bouncing my infant, trying to calm myself more than her, my fatigue and frustration set in. My father saw it on my face and, without hesitating, said he’d make the drive with me.
Now, this wasn’t merely a nice gesture. My dad’s offer was downright sacrificial. It was late on a Friday afternoon during a Minnesota summer. The route we’d need to take would be bumper-to-bumper, lined with families heading to their lake cabins. (Think Cape traffic but with a lot more Chevy trucks.)
The volume would mildly annoy most of us. But sitting in traffic, to my dad, was like food poisoning: something you try to prevent at all costs. He despised highway congestion so much that, whenever he drove to watch the Irish play in South Bend, Indiana, he'd head south into Iowa, then east once he hit Des Moines, and finally north to Notre Dame, having gone hundreds of miles out of his way, just to avoid Chicago traffic.
So I took him up on his monumental offer before he changed his mind. Minutes later, his favorite Jim Reeves CD playing, the two of us were on our way. A few miles in, we had our first memorable father-daughter conversation: “You put his suitcase in the trunk, right?” “No, I thought you did.” It would be a long night.
We spent the next couple hours crawling patiently north along I-94, somewhere between the city and Canada, talking. Really talking. I realized along the way how, as an adult, I hadn’t spoken at length with my dad for years, maybe ever. His hearing wasn’t great, so phone calls were typically just check-ins and kid updates. Visits “home” like this one were usually grandchild-centric, as they were meant to be.
I don’t remember most of the topics we covered on our road trip up and back again. But I recall how my dad listened as I spoke. He probably felt like he finally found a way to get to know who his daughter had become. The strategic maneuver successfully executed by this former Marine Corps sergeant wasn’t lost on me then. And it’s a memory I treasure now.
In honor of Father’s Day, I invite you to respond to this column (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a favorite memory or photo of your dad or of a man who, through his big heart or soulful personality, demonstrated just how impactful, and how essential to the life of a child, a father’s love and attention is. I'd like to include it in our next issue of MCFL's magazine or perhaps on our social media platforms.
Here’s to our fathers and all they did to shape us. Here’s to men who may not have seen fatherhood coming but stood alongside women and supported the life entrusted to them both. And here’s to our sons, who we must raise to one day be caring fathers—self-sacrificial, steady, and strong, aware of and committed to their critical place in our society.