Artist's Lane

What it takes to be a man


For Father’s Day, my grandson, Creede Wylie, wrote this article as a tribute to his dad, Al Wylie, and his grandpa, Ben Wylie. I want to share this with others who know them. — Betty Slade.

Are you a real man in today’s social climate? Individuals tussle with the idea that the term man should change. I’m not mad about the participation trophy culture, but I don’t believe you can earn a title by just taking part biologically or through image. Being a man constitutes particular traits that are often unspoken. 

During a game of chess against my wife, my father’s side of the family became the topic of conversation. Living in Southwest Colorado, my father’s East Coast family becomes oft-overlooked. 

Through deliberation we segued into the impact my Grandpa Wylie had. My grandpa, Ben Wylie, was Scout Master Wylie. He measured his success through financial gain and in his later years believed he was an unsuccessful man. He didn’t remember the impact he made in the young men’s lives across the northeast areas of New York and New Jersey.

Wylie was a tank mechanic, and in the midst of hellfire, it was Grandpa who fixed the problem.  He was a member of the U.S. Army, serving in World War II and the Korean War. He was married to his sweetheart, Ann, when they both turned 18. Over the course of a 60-year marriage, they raised four sons and one daughter. Maybe it’s a home-team bias, but the connection that my father’s siblings have is a testament of who he was.

Wylie was a Boy Scout camp director from 1962-1988, and in those 25-plus years from May to August he became the father figure that boys were missing from the inner city. He prepared young men to welcome a challenge. If he could quantitatively measure the impact on the young men he helped build, he would be one of the richest men of his time. His resourcefulness allowed his limited funding to feel as though it were a blank check.

March 30 was my father’s birthday, and I offered my pop a cigar to celebrate the occasion. He accepted it and the festivities quickly transitioned toward the rest of the weekend. I realized at the very end of the weekend that my gesture wasn’t truly recognized. It was around 9 p.m. and we were leaving my parents’ property. I stopped to tell my father, “Hey, Dad, I would like to let you know that I am not giving you a cigar to smoke, but an opportunity to get away from everything for an hour. I want to teach you something I am very passionate about.” 

I realized at this moment, the amount of time a man has. My offering was not discounted. It was revealed that this gift was not about money, but time. The gift was about time, and relating on a man’s turf. The last two minutes of the weekend, my father and I had found enough time to share a conversation. This revealed the little time we have for ourselves, the difficulty to put aside an hour for our masculine nature.

I am blessed to have a monthly bonfire with guys from our southwestern community. Cigars and whiskey are welcome, and the tough guy attitude is not. Our ages range from 21-45 plus, and every individual is dealing with different challenges. We talk about triumph, the price of hard work and business expansion — items men are most likely to provide for our families and tribe.

It has never been my priority to save a cigar. When I have time, I partake in my favorite vice.

This time was different. I had two cigars saved — one Arturo Fuente for my dad, and “the judge,” made by “my father” for myself. 

 My father taught me how to work on vehicles, play sports and to have an undefeated character.

I am grateful for who he has been for my community, and excited to share this moment with him.

The patience my dad has shown me over the years is a quality needed in a man’s life. Being a strong man is not toxic, but, in reality, courageous. 

Final brushstroke: As a proud grandmother, thank you for letting me indulge. We live for our family. I’m always taken back when I see the respect my family has for each other. I am the blessed one.

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