I am one of those that does not possess a quarter of the skills my father had a deep command of. However, though I don't know how to fix a toilet I do know how to use google to find a plumber. I don't consider fixing a door hinge the kind of activity that I can add value to as the pater familias . People that are trained to do that and can positively ensure that the door will not fall off or the toilet will not overflow do add value to the process of fixing whatever it is that needs fixing.

There are however, skills that my father possesed that go beyond self reliance in small appliance repair. I suspect that my experience applies to all those of us who had fathers who lived through profound upheavals such as wars. That seems to be the piece of the puzzle that we are missing. In my father's case, it was the Cuban Revolution and later exile.

My father always had the respect of the entire extended family, a deference in decision making that he had earned through hard work and leadership. This does not mean he was a tyrant, rather the contrary, he listened to all points of view (kids did not count) and then he made the decision. He did not waffle before making it and he followed through though not blindly. Many times the decisions were counter to his own well-being either in additional working load or loss of what little he could call his own.

My father was the consummate ranking adult. The one that would face the hard decisions and perform the most emotionally devastating tasks while remaining the calm in the storm. Whenever a kid was seriously injured, he would be the one to staunch the blood flow, fix the dislocated shoulder, drive to the hospital, etc. Whenever someone was seriously ill, he would be the one managing the care and dealing with the doctors. Whenever somebody died, he would be the one to deal with the details, stay with the body if needed, pick the casket, etc. His hand would be the steady one that we could always hold on to.

These are the things that matter, this is where I think many of us feel we will fail if ever tested. I imagine though my father being thrust into it and rising to the occassion when all eyes were upon him. I can only hope I will be a quarter as good at it as he was.