With Father’s Day coming this Sunday, it’s appropriate to reflect on the occasion when Forrest Gump first learned that he was a father. More important than his initial reaction (which was very tender and heart-warming) was the Gumption he demonstrated in actually being a father … in being a dad. Biologically speaking, it’s fairly easy to become a father. From a character perspective, being a dad is a lot more challenging. Being Dad has more to do with the 1, 5, 20, 30 & even 50 years after a life is first created than the actual act of creating life.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger uses the term sperm donor to distinguish men who only create life but fail to fulfill the role of being Dad. I’ll use biological father. It’s a sad commentary on our society when single-parent homes, step parents, half-siblings and blended families are too often considered normal. But that issue won’t be debated here. We will simply look at the example set by Forrest Gump and how he stepped up to the plate when he learned he was a father … no doubt to the relief of Jenny and most importantly to the benefit of Little Forrest.
Do your children consider you Dad or were you just the biological father? Was your father a Dad or did he just father you?
While the first 3 quarters of the movie were a hundred little stories of Forrest’s life, sitting on the bench actually had a purpose. Forrest’s ultimate goal was to visit Jenny in response to her letter, and of course the recollection of his life story came as he passed the time waiting for the bus. When he finally states his intention to the elderly woman on the bench with him, she informs him that “Henry St. is just a few blocks away”. At that bit of news, Forrest abandons plans for a bus, leaps from the bench and runs to Jenny’s apartment – barely avoiding a collision with a car in his haste. Moments into a joyful reunion with Jenny, Forrest learns with surprise that Jenny is a mama. With even greater surprise, he learns that he is the father … after eventually grasping the meaning behind Jenny’s statement, “I named him after his Daddy.”
During those relatively few short moments, a lot happens; a combination of surprise, misconstrued inferences, shock, and ultimately overwhelming joy at the realization that he is a father. What ultimately will happen is really decided right then and there, when he made the choice to stay when he could have done otherwise. When Forrest learns he’s the father, he is no doubt frightened, but Jenny graciously comforts him saying, “There’s nothing you need to do, okay? You didn’t do anything wrong.” At that moment, Forrest could have walked out the door and been nothing more than the biological father.
But that is not who Forrest Gump was. With a few cautious small steps, he stepped up to the plate. He asked about Little Forrest’s intelligence, with obvious concern. He asked permission to go and sit with him. He starts a conversation with Little Forrest. And in those few moments, Forrest Gump took his first and most important steps towards becoming Dad.
We likely all know the synopsis of the remaining events; Forrest learns of Jenny’s illness and moves her and Little Forrest back to Greenbow, Alabama. Forrest and Jenny are married, Jenny later dies, and Forrest and Little Forrest live on together as a family, as Dad and son.
Forrest Gump was a man. A man takes responsibility and does what is necessary. Dads are men who take responsibility and do what is necessary, and beyond. Dads have Gumption. For the record, I’ll state that I’m not a father or dad, but on Thursday, I’ll pay tribute to a man … my father and dad, Jack Weber.
Next Blog title: A Tribute to My Father
Next Blog date: June 17, 2010