I get the opportunity to read dozens of books about fathers
and fathering each year. The vast majority, in part because of my own biases, are what I would consider to be "how-to" books about parenting. Every once in a while, a unique book comes across my desk that makes me think more deeply about the role of fathers in their families across generations.
The new book Top Drawer Dads - Celebrating Fathers as They Shape Our Lives is one of those books that is worth reading not necessarily because it gives us lists and ideas about being a better father but teaches dads by example how to think about their impact on their families now and in the coming generation. Authors Dr. Thomas Mahan and Marjie Aldom Smith have shared the stories of seven fathers who made a difference in their communities and their families. The unique element is that the stories are derived from the things that these dads kept in their top drawers.
A Dad's Top Drawer
I suspect that every man at one time or another, invited or in secret, explored the things that his dad kept in his top dresser drawer. I know that I have one of those drawers where I keep things that elicit memories for me. I have tie bars, lapel pins
and such in a small but masculine jewelry box. I have a collection of treasured letters, photos and cards from birthdays, anniversaries, and Father's Days
in the past. I have a wooden top
that was given to me by a cherished friend as I became a father that reminds me of the lessons he taught me. And I even have a decades old "soap on a rope"
given to me by my oldest son when he was a little boy.
The dads in these stories each had a few things that their sons found in their top dresser drawers that elicited memories that are shared in Top Drawer Dads. In many cases, these stories involve military service; in other cases they are items passed down from their fathers and grandfathers that remind them of important friendships and relationships. In one case, the "top drawer items" were not found in the top drawers but were guitars that had been passed down through the generations along with favorite sheet music.
Each story in Top Drawer Dads
brings something significant to the father, the son and the family. In one case, a collection of tie clasps and rings brought religious experiences back to a pastor father and his family. In another, a son found a pair of nylon socks from his father that reminded him of the preciousness of the gift when the sale of nylon was restricted during World War II. In another, it was an old German lugar handgun in a home where guns were not allowed, but which reminded the father of his war experiences.
But in each story, we get a glimpse into the life of an otherwise ordinary man who taught something extraordinary from his life to his children and grandchildren. The stories are memorable and each one has its own lesson and message to succeeding generations. They are meaningful in spite of, and in every case because of, their otherwise ordinariness.
Most of the stories also carry a lesson about values - things a father learned through his experiences that taught him about life, love, music or faith. There are stories that reflect the value of hard work, the importance of dedication and committment and the need for sacrifice to make life safe and worth living for others.
The Ongoing Effort
One of the unique aspects of this book is that the authors have created a website at www.topdrawerdads.com
where they are collecting other stories about fathers based on things found in their top drawers. Visitors can also create a "dadboard" where they can post a photo of their father along with a short memory or comment about their dad.
The Bottom Line
Top Drawer Dads
is an easy and engaging read. At under 100 pages and with extraordinary photos and illustrations, it is a book that can be read in just an hour or two. But the impact of these stories will last well beyond the reading. These are stories that I will share with my children and grandchildren and which make a significant contribution to the literature about everyday fathers and the impact they have had on their families and can have on future generations.
All of us need to be inspired from time to time as we contemplate our role as fathers and as we occasionally feel overwhelmed at the task before us. These stories from very ordinary fathers who influenced their families for good are important reminders of the importance of what we do, day in and day out, as fathers, grandfathers and father figures for the next generation.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy