written June 16, 2013
I’ve known some bad apple dads.
Plenty of pops whose participation has been to fill the seat at some annual banquet, graduation or play. An obligation to dodge the “vacant parent” nametag, rather than an urgency to be present. I’ve known some who’ve fed, clothed and provided, but made sure that is the embrace boundary. I’ve known some who avoided the title altogether and send a monthly check as compensation.
But today, they’ll still be celebrated and given cards just the same.
Kids will still erect superhero scribbles of these guys. Hallmark will shout glorifying alleluias, cards crafted with more intention than the recipients’ parenting.
And I’ve also known some incredible fathers.
Stone-cold men who liquefy at the giggle of their baby. The Suit & Tie types, who loosen them for a quick round of airplane. I’ve known dads awake in the late hours of Christmas Eve to *SPOILER* do the Santa deed and gladly wake minutes later just to see their kids rip elfin wrappings to shreds. I’ve had some godly men who are others’ fathers who’ve given me wisdom when my own is taking a nap. I’ve seen fathers who slave harder than they celebrate so their children can stay naively content in a world sans funds, fighting and fuss.
But in the father ranking, you’re above them all, Daddy.
For my 21st birthday, my dad gave me a gift more gratifyingly bingeable than booze.
Beginning from birth, he wrote 21 of his favorite moments of me. Both mine and my dad’s Love Language is Words of Affirmation, which I’m sure is why he wrote it, and why I’m sure it to be one of the most treasured gifts I will ever received. So without overlapping the ones mentioned in his letter to me (He stole so many good ones), these are only a few of mine of him.
Nirvana. As it begins the day, so it should begin this list. Such an underrated food group. Such an underrated series of moments with you. I have a philosophy war would die out if problems were hashed out over breakfast. (Pun intended.) No monumental moment happened at Friday breakfasts, but it was the forced communion we set for us. Sometimes we were in such a rush to eat, Journey filled in most of our dialogue. As I became older, this tradition evolved into the Viking feast you lay on my plate every morning at seven. OATMEAL. OMLETES. JUICED ORANGES. NIRVANA. I looked forward to it every week then, but I never truly appreciated having weekly rituals with you until we’ve no longer been able to make them now.
And of those rituals, this is perhaps the most treasured. There is no person I would rather tune-in or attend a game with than you. Pre, regular or playoff season, the intensity is all the same. You have the knowledge to heal the near-to-gravees and still find space up there to cram every statistic about a team supported long before you had to start supporting me.
3. Nerd Alert
Our ongoing list of “The Most Under-Utilized Words in the English language” and a scan of our text history is adequate genetic proof. If my dad and I are in a car for more than ten minutes, I can guarantee a symbolism session over some book, a run-through of current events and a continuation of a U2 gushing session that started in ‘92. I’ve seen the old pictures and the glasses. You were a bonafide nerd. But you helped cook up one of an equal caliber.
4. 6 p.m.
Every evening, I’d “help” mom with all the dinner preparations that were actually selfish motions to pass the time before your arrival. The headlights in the driveway were our cowbell ring, a call to the dinner table.
How spoiled I was to expect that meal commencement ceremony. I could always count on you to come home. We couldn’t eat until you got home. We couldn’t do a lot of things without you home, Daddy.
5. Fan Club
You’ve always been my biggest fan when it comes to my writing. And you don’t give me the binding applause of a parent who has scanned hundreds of reports, creative writings, and documents ranging from not-that-important to participation-grade-busy-work. You read it. You notice my writing riffs and chew over the themes. This year especially, you’ve read some of the most intimate and painful material I’ve ever written, pieces I’ve nearly quit writing. You urge me to put it to paper. You read my writing like I have something to say worth being heard.
6. Like Daddy, Like Doctor
For as long as I can remember, surgeon was the only card in my career hat. Little thought was given to the ten plus years that lay before me after college, no worries of failure. Because I had the sick blessing of a steel stomach and you were a doctor and my hero, and that somehow transferred all confidence. You never pushed or even suggested the dream, but still, Discovery Health was plastered on at age 7, anatomy books were being read by age 10 and by 15, we were on the back porch of the cabin having a stitching 101 session. My stuffed dog Cuddles donated his body to the pre-teen learning’s of vertical mattress stitches. I still remember how it’s done and am assured (and sickly await when) I could resurrect the dream and teachings if such a mangled bloody mess of bodies opportunity presented itself.
I should have known, hands so natural in stitching human skin together would find the stitching of a 5-year-old’s hair a med school warm-up. Few girls have braided my hair with the finesse and flawless finish that you did. I think you secretly enjoyed the pride of dropping off a presentable daughter to school without aid of mother. Mr.Mom, step off.
8. Watching you look at Mom.
I can’t stress it enough: kids watch the way you treat your spouse. You’ve done me the biggest service in making my mother your best friend, for better or for worse. You’ve done the biggest disservice for my future husband to whom the bar has been set irrationally high. If there is nothing you take away from my list when x-ing the Internet browser, remember this: your demonstrating unconditional love as a husband has changed me.
9. Trouble time with dad.
Whether it be my confession or his confronting.
With mom, I could just stare at her S-H-A-R-K forehead wrinkle that came with the scolding. How I wished you for a forehead wrinkle!, a voice inflection!, an evil eye!, something! Because nothing is worse than being reprimanded by the Gentle Giant whose “I’m disappointed” sinks me to the depths of daughter despair. You never had to yell. You barely have had to raise your voice to me in the 21 years of fathering me. Not because I’ve eased the parenting burden, but because it’s not in your nature.
10. Les Miserables.
Never have I cried so hard in a movie. Never have I cried in a movie.
Okay, I bypassed crying an hour into the movie. I left the theatre with movie-goers concerned of my emotional state. Forgetting the Kleenex box, I was sent to burrow the mess they call “face” in my scarf.
As if the plot isn’t powerful enough to crack Russian stoicism. Tears kept coming because I was watching you and I on the screen. A man who constantly shelves out for his capital s, selfish and self-centered daughter. A daughter who frolics in the midst of men and revolutions, not having to face the ugliness of the world because he does all in his power to preserve her from it. You’ve never sheltered me from reality, but you’ve always protected me from having to face it alone. You’re Val Jean 2.0: easy on the criminal history, heavy on the daughter doting.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.
Hallmark wants to lump you in with the rest of of them.
But you’re the only one I can write a list about because you’re mine.
I love you fiercely, Papa,