It’s just a day, like all the made up holidays… Valentine’s, Groundhog Day, Mother’s Day, National Doughnut Day…. but I can’t help but think of my father and think about the father I am.
My dad had a brain tumor and I remember him as a man sitting in a La-Z-Boy doing crossword puzzles, sharpening his pencil, looking up things in his Crossword Dictionary, and shuffling back and forth from his room to the chair in house slippers. It seems like half the time I walked by his chair he would hold out his hand for me to slap, touch, shake, or whatever I was supposed to do to make a connection. Mostly I remember being a teenager. Mostly I remember being embarrassed that he wasn’t “normal.” I remember one day when he came in to wake me up and ask me to take him to his favorite spot, Waffle House, and I yelled at him to leave me alone, I was trying to sleep.
But I wasn’t always mean to him and the weirdest thing is I can’t remember him ever being mean to me. He was kind, soft, simple, and somehow positive despite his condition.
I am a softy dad too. I let my kids get away with a lot. I want to treat them to gifts every day. I want to hang out with them whenever possible. I am ready to drop my own projects for them if they show even the slightest bit of interest in something.
My daughter loves music, mostly pop music. She’s 10. She likes to put on the pop station on the radio, or play songs she knows on YouTube when we go anywhere in the car. She likes to name the song title and artist for every song that Kiss 105 plays. I told her recently what a good DJ she was and a few days later she was filling up a page with songs for a playlist. I told her we could buy the songs and make a playlist. Now I have almost 3 hours of the “DJCJ” playlist. It makes me happy.
My son loves computers. He’s 13. He wants to be on them every second of every day. While I don’t let that happen, I do ask for his help making logos on programs he is a whiz at, programs like Adobe Flash. I sit there and gawk as he hits keys faster than I can think, changing fonts, colors, sizes, and creating what is in my mind so much faster and better than I could draw it. Both my kids are funny. They have an advanced sense of humor that makes me laugh every day.
I think about my dad more because of the silly holiday. I think about my own responsibilities to my kids. I consider that I am leading every day by example and every time I complain and gripe about stupid shit, I teach them that complaining and griping is okay. When I am lazy I teach them to be lazy. When I rise to an occasion, find an inner determination to be positive in a negative situation, I know they will also take silent notice.
My daughter is CRAZY for some new movie coming out this weekend called Inside Out. She probably saw a preview ONCE and she can’t stop talking about how excited she is about seeing it. At one point a week ago it was mentioned maybe she could see it Saturday night. I said, “But I’ve got to work Saturday night, maybe you could wait until Sunday.” She didn’t want to wait. She wanted to see it at the FIRST available opportunity. A few days later I realized I really don’t care about seeing it, and I’d rather her go whenever she can and since her cousins are in town and Saturday night might be best, that is totally fine with me. I told her as much. I said, “You can go Saturday night if that works out.” She’s already becoming a little woman. She let that soak in and didn’t really respond at all. Today we went to the springs. I took both my kids and my nephew. We swam around in the cold water and had such a blast. At one point it was just she and I there in the water and she says to me, “Pop, do you WANT to see the movie? Because if you want to see it I’ll wait for you.” That sort of talk just sleighs me. Are 10 year olds really supposed to have that sort of advanced selfless thinking? Isn’t she supposed to think only of her own desires?
Being a dad is the most important job I have. Even though I employ over 50 people and run a busy restaurant, the weight of being a good father is so much heavier than being a boss and leader. I’ll drop anything for my family and I learn more from my kids than I learn from the internet. My daugher teaches me to be sparkly. She shines. She teaches me to be funny, whimsical, creative, alive. My son teaches me about perserverance, confidence, the value of intellect and ambition. He was trying to figure out how to do some “thing” on Minecraft the other day and when I went to look at his Google history he had looked at 101 pages to accomplish his goal. Damn. I’m not that focused, excited, engaged.
I love being a dad. Sometimes I’m the guy with answers and advice, and sometimes they provide the answers and advice.
Hanging out on the raft in the ocean recently my daughter asked my how much a fathom was. “About 1000 feet,” I answered, as if I knew. She was amazed. At some point the next day or so she relayed this information to her brother. “WHAT?!” he said. “A fathom is 6 feet!” She came right to me and challenged my bullshit answer. Oh well. I guess I should be more careful, include words like “I don’t know” or “Ask your brother” next time I’m in over my head.
What a huge and awesome thing to be a kids father. How nostalgic and intimate it feels to remember my own father. Father’s Day: I can’t wait for the good times.