I don’t have any memories of my father as he died when I was two months old and my stepfather…well, that is best left in the past. But over the years I’ve collected many memories of being a father to my kids: the joys; the sorrows; the embarrassing stories I use as payback. Here are a few.
When Aaron was about six I bought him the big, red plastic bat that came with a big, white, very hard plastic ball. I was pitching to him in the back yard when he connected. I caught a line drive at crotch level, which sent me to the ground. As I’m writhing in pain, Aaron came up to me and said, “Are you tired, Daddy?”
One Sunday morning Aaron treated me to breakfast; a glass of orange juice and a bowl of Cheerios, into which he’d poured the milk about 10 minutes before I got up. He was really proud of himself; when I looked at the bowl he said, “It’s a little soggy.” I said, “No, it’s just fine,” as I started eating. Never discourage a child trying to do something nice, since the impulse disappears when they become teenagers.
Nathan was voted Most Likely to Get His Butt Swatted, largely because he was usually the source of some mischief or aggravation. One evening, sensing the inevitable, he stuffed a hard cover book into his pants just before the hand came. The little twerp just laughed as I nursed a very sore hand. His siblings thought it was funny as well.
Nathan assumed adults were gullible from a very early age. We were watching television on the family room couch when he got up and said, “You stay right there. I’ll be right back.” Not being born yesterday, I quietly followed him, and caught him pilfering cookies from the pantry. Some months later, he got into the pantry and closed the door before climbing the shelves to the cookies. Mom almost had a heart attack when she opened the door and found him hanging on a shelf. He jumped off quickly and said, “Can I have a cookie?”
Corey learned how to get her brothers in trouble by the time she was two: poke the animals and then complain when they retaliated. One time, however, the boys protested. “Corey started it!”
“Corey, is that true?”
A moment of silence preceded the howl as she exited, stage left, having been busted. Later she learned to be far more subtle, especially with Nathan. Light the fuse, stand back and watch the fireworks, because he would never see it coming.
As Corey got older, she developed the uncanny ability to outwit Nathan in any argument. I finally told him, “Once you start arguing with your sister, you’ve already lost.” He’s 31 now and STILL hasn’t learned.
Many years ago, about the time my I.Q. dropped 50 points, some gremlin kidnapped my kids and replaced them with eye-rolling, heavy-sighing sullen replicants. I couldn’t possibly understand what they were going through because life was soooo much easier when I was their ages. (I did, and it wasn’t, but what do I know?) Separation is inevitable but that doesn’t make it any easier.
Now they are adults, alternately making me proud and breaking my heart. I didn’t have a father to guide me and regretted it well into my forties. They have a father but seem hell-bent on graduating from the School of Hard Knocks. The relationships between fathers and sons can be substantially more difficult than those between fathers and daughters, although the latter has its own landmines. I worry about alienating my sons; I worry about disappointing my daughter.
It’s difficult to understand how hard it is to watch and remain silent until you have kids of their own. Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.
I take some comfort in the lyrics to Gino Vanelli’s “Father and Son.” Listen to the link and reflect.
It takes more than time to discover
That for both the young and old the truth is sometimes cold but right
I love you, my children, even if you do make me crazy sometimes. No, even more when you make me crazy sometimes.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. And Happy Father’s Day to the guy I never knew. Wish you were here.