The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

June 18, 2012

Dads don't have to be perfect to be great

By Kelly Kazek

— An Associated Press reporter recently interviewed Martin Sheen and asked him to give his parenting advice as Father’s Day approached. Sheen may seem an odd choice as the man who begat the now-infamous boozing, woman-chasing , “winning” Charlie, but the reporter says perhaps advice from someone flawed like Martin – i.e., a reformed boozer and ladies’ man – is more helpful than advice from a perfect dad.

He may as well have gotten tips on fathering from Michael Lohan or Jon Gosselin.

As if to overshadow his dad’s interview, Charlie gave an interview for a story that appeared Friday claiming that he lost his virginity at age 15 to a prostitute he purchased with his father’s credit card.

Now that’s father-son bonding.

It’s a good thing one of Martin’s key points on fatherhood was: “Regrets are useless.”  (Of course, I also particularly liked his heart-warming quote on fathers: “For good or ill, we’re stuck with these guys,” a sentiment someone needs to needlepoint on a pillow.)

Martin told the reporter that he wasn’t sure what impact his alcoholism had on his children when they were younger. I think the fact that Charlie Sheen can only stay “in character” if the character is named “Charlie” – yes, even in his new show debuting this month – speaks to the mental damage inflicted.

Fortunately, we don’t see many families like the Sheens and Lohans around these parts.

The dads I know are caring and fun, like my dad, Charles (not Charlie) Caldwell.

Since Dad died four years ago, Shannon and I have been bereft. He was a father to both of us and we miss him every day. Based on my own experience, I’ve compiled my own ideas of what a father is:

• A dad is someone who complains about the dog – the expense, the stains, the 2 a.m. bathroom runs – but is often caught rubbing the dog’s ears and talking baby talk to it.

• A dad is someone who yells about the thermostat being set too high in the winter but who willingly gives you his coat when you are freezing while watching the annual Christmas parade.

• A dad is someone who brings you a new Nancy Drew mystery when you are sick and have to stay in bed.

• A dad is someone who taught you the words to the nonsensical poem, “One bright morning in the middle of the night.”

• A dad is someone who, on a long family car trip, can make up 27 verses of a song about your runty-legged beagle named Rascal.

• A dad is someone who stays by your side after you’ve cried yourself to sleep when you slammed your finger in the car door at age 8.

• A dad is someone who stays by your side after you’ve cried yourself to sleep when your first boyfriend breaks your heart (only occasionally mumbling that boy “doesn’t have the sense God gave ball bearings.”)

• A dad is someone who may sometimes have trouble voicing his pride in your accomplishments but who will trash-talk someone who dares insult you.

That describes a perfect dad.

When I was struggling with my marriage when Shannon was a baby, Dad didn’t offer advice, as my late mother would have. Dad offered only quiet support.

He died before I published my first book but I know he would be proud.

I knew he was always there for me. I knew he believed in me.

I know it still.

Happy Father’s Day!

You can reach Kelly Kazek at