'It was like finding gold for a girl who barely knew her dad': A Father's Day story (2024)

When I was a kid growing up in a Beverly red brick two-flat, I would often go to a living room cabinet and dig out the beat-up scrapbook that carried my dad’s pictures and memorabilia from D-Day and World War II.

We had images of him throughout the house, in his aviator shades coaching my brothers’ Christ the King football teams and with his slicked-back Vitalis hair as a Ford Motor Company executive. But that scrapbook gave me a look at a different time.

Frank R. Doubek died from an infection at age 46, four days after my third birthday, leaving behind his wife and eight children. As that eighth child, I knew him the least and yearned to know more.

Growing up without him was just the way it was. My mom and brothers and sisters told stories that became family lore. A favorite is Mom telling Dad at the dinner table the night I was born that it was time to head to Little Company of Mary Hospital. He got up, headed to the phone and returned. “Did you call the doctor?” Mom asked. “No,” he said, “I called my bowling captain to tell him I wasn’t going to make it tonight.”

My own memories are few: watching him shave, him bouncing me on his knee in his living room chair, sneaking whiffs of his pipe tobacco pouch.

That old scrapbook cemented his hero status before I even understood what I was seeing. There were black and white snapshots of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower reviewing troops. Grainy shots of him horsing around on an MP’s motorbike. Dad in a baseball cap and flight suit, posing with crewmates in front of his glider, “Miss Windy City,” the outline of a buxom babe in a bathing suit etched beneath the co*ckpit window. A U.S. flag patch with “June 6, 1944,” hand-printed along an edge.

Lt. Frank R. Doubek was a 24-year-old glider pilot on D-Day. He was towed up with other troops and equipment and released to land the plywood, fabric and steel-tubed aircraft behind enemy lines. The gliders were dubbed “flying coffins,” and six of the 26 men in his 88th squad never returned home.

For the longest time, that scrapbook, with its grainy images and Army documents, was all I ever knew about Dad’s service.

The story of ‘Screaming Eagle Gliders’

All that changed about 20 years ago, when a retired Michigan cop, Gary J. Dettore, cold-called my mom looking for information for a book he was writing on the 321st Glider Field Artillery Battalion. That call led to exchanges between Dettore and my brother, Don, who was the keeper of that sacred scrapbook. And all of that led to an unbelievable find.

“Screaming Eagle Gliders,” by G.J. Dettore, eventually was published in 2016, and the cover image is my dad and his mates in front of “Miss Windy City.”

That, in itself, is incredible, but long before the book was published, Dettore sent us a copy of an article he’d found. Dad was featured in the July 2, 1944, edition of “Yank,” the Army’s weekly newsmagazine. Not just any news story, this piece was like finding gold for a girl who barely knew her dad. It was a Q and A with my dad and two other glider pilots talking about their D-Day experiences.

For the first time, I heard my dad talking about this epic day. A bit of him came alive on those pages.

“Before take off, they told us it was going to be a milk run, but that turned out to be the biggest lie of the whole invasion,” Dad said early in the piece. He described being met by enemy mortar fire as he landed.

“The first contact we made with American forces on the ground was with tankmen. About an hour later, we ran across paratroopers. They were just as happy to see us as we were to see them. They threw their arms around us glider pilots and hugged us. It was wonderful seeing those boys. We glider pilots think that those paratroopers are the toughest bunch of boys in the Army.”

In another section, Dad talked about making it back to the beaches of Normandy. “When I got on the beach I was like a kid waiting for the ice cream man. When you realize the predicament those men on the beach head had been in and the men further in, when you understood how badly and how much they needed everything, it made you feel awfully good to watch our big stuff coming in off the landing craft — big guns, tanks, trucks, bulldozers, and it all looked good.”

To read his words, feel his jumble of emotions, well, it just takes my breath away.

Eighty years after D-Day, the “Yank” interview remains a treasure, with the voice of my dad reliving epic moments that reshaped the course of all of our lives and marked the beginning of the end of the terror of Nazi Germany.

Dettore gave us such a gift. He gave me a glimpse of my dad, my own hero of the Greatest Generation.

Madeleine Doubek is a former journalist and nonprofit executive.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com

'It was like finding gold for a girl who barely knew her dad': A Father's Day story (2024)


What happens if a girl grows up without a father? ›

Fatherless daughters often face a lack of confidence and struggle with decision-making. The absence of a father's guidance and support can leave them uncertain about their abilities and hesitant to trust their own judgment. This can hinder their personal and professional growth and lead to missed opportunities.

How does a bad father affect you? ›

Many would admit that they have struggled with feelings of abandonment and low self-esteem, due to the lack of a father's love in their lives. Some have turned to drugs, alcohol, risky sexual activities, unhealthy relationships, or other destructive behaviors to numb the pains of fatherlessness.

How to love a girl without a father? ›

Fatherless women need patience and a lot of it. They need understanding and comfort, as best that you can provide. They need your love and admiration even more so than women with loving, present fathers. They need your support conversation and time.

Do girls need a father figure? ›

Self-Esteem and Self-Worth: The self-esteem and value of their daughters are significantly influenced by their fathers. Positive self-esteem is fostered in girls by fathers who are actively involved in their life, show appreciation, encouragement, and affirmation.

Is fatherless daughter syndrome real? ›

“Fatherless Daughter Syndrome" (colloquially known as "daddy issues") is an emotional disorder that stems from issues with trust and lack of self-esteem that leads to a cycle of repeated dysfunctional decisions in relationships with men.”

Do girls without fathers mature faster? ›

The figures from the study show that on average, girls entered puberty approximately three months earlier, if the father did not live with the mother during pregnancy. The same was true if they did not live with their father at any time during their childhood.

What is a toxic father? ›

Toxic parents might use verbal belittlement, emotional manipulation, and/or physical intimidation to control their children. “Family dynamics and relationships are complicated. It can be hard to understand how helpful or hurtful our family members, especially our parents, can sometimes be.

Why do fathers love daughters more? ›

They love their daughter more to give them mental and emotional strength to cater the men's world out there. Its a hidden fear that maybe other man who will eventually come into her life will not give her love as much as they can so they want to fill heart with love before the hard times.

How does the absence of father affect daughters? ›

Consistent with the research literature, father absence seemed to have a negative impact on the women in our study. For instance, the participants stated that when their father was absent (e.g., from divorce, separation, abandonment, or incarceration) they had more (3) difficulty trusting others.

Do woman find single dads attractive? ›

Single dads are stated to be so attractive to single women because there is an association that they are responsible, nurturing and can prioritise those who are most important to them,” says Sarah Louise Ryan, the dating and relationship expert for Even – a new dating app for single parents.

Do girls love their fathers? ›

Daughters naturally crave connection with their fathers, and they especially cherish emotional and physical affection from their fathers. In fact, according to Meg Meeker's research, when girls and dads have a stronger connection, daughters do better in life on a number of different levels.

How to heal from fatherless daughter syndrome? ›

Overcoming the emotional impact of a father's absence
  1. Allow yourself to grieve. Growing up without a dad can be painful and hurtful. ...
  2. Focus on building your self-esteem. ...
  3. Find a mentor that you can count on. ...
  4. Learn how to have healthy relationships. ...
  5. Let go of any guilt. ...
  6. Forgive your dad. ...
  7. Online therapy with BetterHelp.
May 14, 2024

What happens to a girl who grows up without a father? ›

Two studies have found that early father-absence in females is linked to both slower cognitive development and worse academic performance.

Do girls like a dad body? ›

More than half of women who responded to a recent Planet Fitness survey think dad bods are sexy. Breaking news for all dads with a little "extra" around the middle: Your body is actually the definition of "sexy" for more than half of the female population!

What does a girl need from her dad? ›

Daughters need love, patience, and honesty. Not someone who has lived their life perfectly, but someone that encourages a life of integrity. I think a daughter needs unconditional love, support, encouragement, just good listening ears and a shoulder to cry on. Definitely patience and just to be present.

How does father absence affect daughters? ›

Consistent with the research literature, father absence seemed to have a negative impact on the women in our study. For instance, the participants stated that when their father was absent (e.g., from divorce, separation, abandonment, or incarceration) they had more (3) difficulty trusting others.

Is it bad for a child to grow up without a father? ›

The effects of broken families have been staggering. Children from fatherless homes fare far worse in overall well-being and mental and behavioral health. These children are often burdened with lower self-esteem than other children, and they do not understand why their fathers abandoned them (Brown).

What happens when a father abandons his daughter? ›

Daughters of absent fathers are more likely to have disordered eating, be obese, or engage in addictive substances. (Teachman, 2004). 7. Fears of "losing everything." This is a common feeling among those who were abandoned during a crucial time in their life that many struggle to put into words.

How does losing a father affect a daughter? ›

Children who lost their parents had a higher amount of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (PTSD). Studies also show that the loss of a father has a huge effect on his daughter's self-esteem. Women who lost their fathers were more likely to have low self-worth.

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