A Father’s Approval Makes All the Difference

On the plane to San Francisco, we watched ‘Walk the Line,’ the Johnny Cash biopic. The movie was poignant, especially in the portrayal of Johnny’s father and the tortured relationship between father and son. One scene was set at the height of the star’s drug and booze addiction, when Cash had invited his parents for Thanksgiving. Up on a hill sat a tractor that Johnny had gotten stuck in the mud, another casualty of his hard drinking ways.

Johnny’s dad Ray sat at the kitchen table and condemned his son. “A pill-popping rock and roll star with a big empty house, who never sees his kids, with an expensive tractor up there stuck in the mud.” You could feel how the years of being condemned and never praised by his dad had injured the singer, and how his harsh comment made him seethe. Watching the film with tears in my eyes, I remembered how much it hurts my own son when I criticize him, and how my own dad always built me up. It struck a chord in me and made me think: remember how much a son wants his father’s approval.

But there was a strong woman behind Johnny Cash, and June Carter stuck by him and when the pill pusher came to deliver the drugs, they chased him off with shotguns. When she finally relented and accepted his proposal to marry, on stage in Ontario Canada, he never drank again–and lived another 35 years of wedded bliss with the woman he always loved June Carter Cash.