I love John Wayne movies, and one of my favorites is "The Cowboys." John Wayne isn't the self-actualized, emotion-spewing modern man in this film, but he obviously learned to love and respect those kids, and vice versa.
At the risk of sounding like a heretic, we all tend to be a bit too much like John Wayne film characters. I've read a lot of the modern advice for men that says we should be more forthcoming with our feelings, more freely saying the words, "I love you." But I'll admit I even get a little queasy writing them on paper.
In "The Cowboys," Wayne didn't express his feelings in any demonstrative way. Even on his deathbed, he merely told the bunch of young cowboys that he was proud of them. Those kids didn't really respond either; they merely delivered the cowherd to market despite all the obstacles and the cost. That was how that bunch of young cowboys honored him -- by acting in accordance with what Wayne's character had taught them.
With Father's Day just around the corner, that movie made me realize that I'd never done enough to truly let my Dad know how much I appreciate and respect him. And as a father myself, I realized there's so much more I want to give my kids than what I have (and I'm not talking in the material sense).
My dad isn't old, and he's in great health, so I probably still have 30 or so years to muster up the strength to sit down and write him a letter. (I don't think I'd ever say it face to face, not in its entirety anyway.) I'd tell him how much I respect him as a man, as a dad, and as a husband. And that part of what motivates me in my life is a desire to live up to the standard he so eloquently set.
He deserves to hear it, and I'd probably feel much better getting it off my chest. Still, when I think of the movie "The Cowboys," I also realize that actions speak louder than words. John Wayne was willing to give the ultimate gift for those boys and, in return, they risked everything to show their appreciation.
So until that day when I sit down and try to put into words how much my dad has meant to me -- and until all of you can write the letter, make the call, or sit down around the fire and have that talk with your dad (God bless you, if you've already done it!) -- then perhaps the most eloquent thing I and we all can do to salute our fathers is to strive to be the people our fathers hoped us to be. Actions always speak louder than words. Thanks, Dad, for everything.