Friends and strangers share their happiest memories, biggest laughs, and most touching moments with their dad for Father’s Day.
Our relationships with our fathers are weird. I knew that before I asked a bunch of friends, family, and strangers to tell me about their favorite memories with their dads, but after reading their responses, it’s never been more clear.
Dads are quiet and loud. They’re overprotective and reckless. They’re loving and resentful. And I think that’s okay. No matter how many times we say it, it’s hard to remember they’re just people. Like all of us, they’re children grown tall who, whether they chose to have us or not, were thrust onto the path of fatherhood that, though it’s been walked by billions of men before them, doesn’t get any easier.
This was an impromptu and quickly executed project. But I’m glad so many people rose to the occasion and shared their memories. It takes a lot to examine the past and share it with people — the internet even more.
So to all the dads who are or are no longer with us — thanks and happy Father’s Day.
When I was playing in the living room, at about seven years old, I looked up and my dad was loudly crying with his head in his hands. My mom told me he was okay and was just worried about taking care of us as we got older. That moment stayed with me forever; whenever I worry or cry, I remember that he did too.
Lee, 33, Youngstown, Ohio
My dad was didactic and seriously flawed. I guess you could say he was old school. My favorite memory of him is when we were in a boat fishing with his youngest sibling, my Uncle Na (Ignatius — we’re a very Catholic family) and I was doing okay baiting my hook, but dad insisted that I do it his way. Uncle Na said, “Your dad is an ignorant son of a bitch, ain’t he?” I almost tipped the boat over laughing so hard.
I realize now that my dad was doing the best he could do with what he had. He was a single parent with a hard day job and two high-achieving academic kids at home. My sister and I turned out a bit better than okay, even though he never told us anything by way of advice. When I do think of him now it is with much appreciation and gratitude.
Chuck, 69, Annandale, Virginia
My dad Bill was 62 when I was born. One of the upsides of being born to a man that age was that he was like both a father and grandfather to me: he doted and played as much or more as he strove to teach and discipline. The downside, of course, is that he died before we had the chance to get to know each other as adults. As my husband and I wrestle with deciding when to have children of our own, at our relatively advanced ages of 37 and 47, I realize we shouldn’t make the call based solely on what seems best for our own lives.
April, 37, Brooklyn, NY
I was about 14 when my dad took me outside on a frigid winter day to the corner of the house where the gutter should have been. He said, “See that? You’re going to help me fix it.” He pointed to what was once the aluminum gutter, now flattened and separated from the spout where it was normally affixed to the wall.
My friends and I had accidentally kicked it off the wall and stomped on it when we were playing in the yard. I don’t think he was most upset we’d broken the gutter; I think it was that we didn’t give damn that we did. It wasn’t our problem — it was someone else’s. What I didn’t consider was that it would become my dad’s problem.
Except this time, it became my problem.
I stood there shivering as we hammered the gutter back into shape and used a manual rivet gun to secure it to the spout. I didn’t wear gloves because I couldn’t hold the tools while wearing them. I asked if we had to do this now, with snow the ground, when we could see our breath. He said now was the best time to do it, that if we didn’t do it then, the water would drain along the house as it melted, which would make even more work for us (him) later.
I feel like some people might see this as harsh, but I don’t remember it like that. Yes, I was cold and annoyed, but he asked me for help, I got to spend time with him, and I was learning. I was learning how to fix a gutter, how to be responsible. I was learning empathy.
Though the job wasn’t done, he eventually told me I could go inside. Maybe it was because he took mercy on me watching me shiver, maybe it was because I wasn’t any help. Either way I felt guilty walking away as I looked back at him fixing the gutter in the snow.
Nathan, 28, Brooklyn, New York
My favorite thing about my dad, besides his sense of humor and stubbornness, is that he chose to be my father. My biological father left when I was born, but when my mom and dad started dating, he never hesitated in his love for me. I’ll never forget when he was taking care of me one night (I was probably about 3) and we saw a commercial for Chuck E Cheese on tv. I said, “Robbie, we should go there sometime!” and he immediately started putting on his shoes and we went straight to the most magical place on earth (as far as I knew at that time). I remember thinking that he must truly love me in that moment.
When he and my mom got married, we said it was “our” wedding day and every year we always celebrate our anniversary as a family. My dad has taught me to be strong and kind. He raised me to have an open mind and an open heart and to treat all humans, animals and our earth with total respect. I feel like the luckiest kid on earth that such an awesome person chose me to be his daughter.
Mindy, 34, East Palestine, Ohio.
My dad is a complex guy. As a father now myself I can appreciate and understand a lot more of the BS I remember from my childhood under his roof. Once I remember, when I was about 13, some kid at school had screwed me over for some reason or another, can’t quite remember what, but my dad and I got to talking about revenge. He told me about a time a business contact had burned him on a contract. No good reason, no good explanation, just a “hey fuck off.” My dad explained that revenge doesn’t need to be immediate, and that, when planned, can be all the more satisfying. To get back at this guy he started sweet talking the guy’s secretary. He got her to tell him when he’d take his next vacation. With that in mind, Glenn went down to Haymarket in Boston and bought the biggest, grossest fish he could find. He then bought several large boxes, stacked inside one another. He then placed the fish in the central box, sealed everything up very nicely, gift wrapping each box as he went. He then had the box delivered to the guy’s office the day after he left for a 3 week vacation in August. The secretary, not wanting a giant box in the lobby for 3 weeks, moved it into the guy’s corner office. 3 weeks go by and the guy comes back from vacation. First thing he does is open the series of gift wrapped boxes in his office. When he got to the final box, he was greeted by a swarm of flies and the stench of decaying fish.
The point of the story leads into the advice he gave me after: Be careful the enemies you make as you go through life. If you need to burn someone, do it as painlessly as possible and always be careful who you step on as you go. One dick move begets a thousand more.
Dan, 30, Ipswich, MA
The most important lesson my dad ever taught me was to love everyone. No matter their skin color, their sexual orientation, or anything else they don’t choose to be themselves.
Robert, 20, Annandale, VA
My dad is kind, gentle, and fun. He also loves music. Growing up, my Dad would blast Motown or classic rock every Saturday morning in the kitchen and living room. While he cooked, my brothers and I were encouraged do dance and sing along — each of us taking up and mastering a different air instrument. He also always changed every single “baby” lyric to “Katie”, so until I was a teenager I thought pretty much every song was about me. I think to my Dad, everything was about his kids.
Katie, 27, Medway, MA
It was Valentine’s Day, I was around 10 years old, and my dad came home with a large bouquet of Roses, a card, Teddy Bear, and a heart shaped box of chocolates. He walked over and gave it all to me. I was so shocked, frozen I remember. I didn’t really understand Valentine’s Day other than everyone getting a card at school.
He hugged me and told me with tears in his eyes, “You are my Sony one and Only, and I wanted to be the first man to give you these.”
Ever since then, no matter what my relationship status is, every Valentine’s Day I know the most important man in the world loves me unconditionally and that makes me the happiest of girls ever.
Jenna, 41, Brooklyn, New York
When I was about 8 years old, my father got a fairly large train set from a friend who no longer wanted it. He was busy as most fathers are, but wanted to set it up. After a few weeks of waiting, and doing a little here and there, we went in the basement to finish it. As most father-son projects go he was doing most of the work. I was bored, but didn’t want to leave. The train had a log-carrying car with about 6 logs that looked a lot like pretzel rods. I took a few and pretended to eat one. When my father asked me to share I had to tell him it wasn’t really a pretzel just a fake log. He chuckled and said I should have given it to him it because it would have been funny.
Doug, 53, Medway, MA
When my parents divorced, I’d visit my dad every other weekend. Because I was still quite young, he’d drive me back and forth — two hours each way. This meant a lot of time in the car. At the time it seemed mundane, but now looking back, that was when I started viewing my dad more as a “person” instead of just a “parent.” I realized through our talks that he (obviously) had an entire life before I was born and had his own hopes, aspirations, and fears. An added bonus — those car rides introduced me to a lot of great Beatles and Zeppelin albums.
Brielle, 25, Brielle, New Jersey (this is not a joke)
My dad is a car guy. When I was about eight, he purchased an all-black 1993 Cobra Mustang. We rarely took it out, and it couldn’t be taken out in the rain. The one time we did take it out were Friday nights to a diner called Annabelle’s, a retro place famous for its milkshakes. I didn’t care much about cars then, but I loved going to Annabelle’s because it meant blasting Chuck Berry or Bob Segar, driving fast, and, of course, getting a milkshake.
One night, as we were coming home, we came upon the long, straight stretch of road called “Freelane Way.” Dad said it was perfect for driving at top speed.
“Are you guys ready?” he asked, “I’m going to pull a whole shot.” Excitement filled his voice.
It was dark quiet night with no other cars were around. He came to a stop then began to accelerate. Rapidly. In a moment my body was pressed into the seat, and we were going the fastest I had ever gone in my short life. I felt like I couldn’t breath, and everything was a blur. I could feel each gear shift, and I eventually squeezed shut my eyes, trying to block out the unnerving sensations.
The experience ended nearly as quickly as it had begun. We slowed down to a normal, safe speed and continued on our way home, my dad now wearing a large grin on his face. Despite the fact we were now driving along in a perfectly normal way, my heart pounded the rest of the way home, and I was still shaking as my dad went to put me to bed.
“Oh, Scooter, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know it would scare you like that. We don’t have to do that ever again, if it frightens you that much,” he said in a gentle voice, enveloping me in a warm, comforting hug. He held me close for a few moments, apologized again, and tucked me in.
He never pulled a whole shot in the Mustang while I was a passenger after that. I am his youngest child and his only daughter, but I’m thankful he never treated me as weak or fragile. He taught me that I am stronger than I might think. He showed me that fear only restricts your enjoyment of life, but also made sure he was there for me in moments of need so that I have never felt alone.
Jessica, 29, from Northfield, OH, an excerpt. Read the full story here.