No fathers for a Father’s Day cookout today – mine is 300 miles away, my spouse’s dad died almost 10 years ago, and in my household, even the dogs are female. It’s a lazy Sunday as a result. Planted some parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (my yearly tribute to Simon & Garfunkel), watched War Horse on TV, ate random leftovers, read a little, didn’t even shower. In between which I thought about the following:
1) I wonder if my kids wish they had a dad? I’ve asked them about this at times. They always say no. But what are they going to say to me? Yes, you ruined our life. I have to explain the no-dad thing a lot, so I imagine they do too. Recently I brought them to get new glasses. My youngest daughter is incredibly near-sighted and the eye-glasses guy, thinking about nothing more than the thickness of her lenses as she gets older, asked about my eyesight and then asked, how about dad’s? I always try to answer casually, comfortably, like I talk about these things all the time and it’s no big deal. But it’s weird to tell strangers, I used a donor. It’s like telling people you had a boob job or you like to be on top or how much money you make. It feels personal. Most times I say, my partner’s a woman (and then sometime I have to explain further that she’s not a business partner), but in this case the question was in reference to biology, not family structure. Eye-glasses man was cool. He liked the kids. He had a lot of tattoos under that white jacket. He didn’t bat an eyelash.
2) My dad believed my mother did all the parenting. He wasn’t around a lot. He never even changed a diaper. Occasionally he was called in for serious discipline or for a ride to Carvels for soft ice cream. He worked all the overtime he could get, and even worked on holidays. My father was the provider. He paid for everything with cash. He scoured the grocery flyers for sales and did the shopping. He turned off the lights and turned down the heat and made you eat everything on your plate and paid every bill on time and watched how much water you put in the tea kettle so you didn’t waste electricity heating what you wouldn’t use. My friends in high school were afraid of him. He was a growler, a yeller, a where-are-you-going-who-are-you-going-wither. Yet under his cranky, grumpy, worry-wart ways, my father had a sense of humor. We’ve all inherited it to some degree, and found comfort in it during trying times. And in this way, he parented us more than he knows.
3) Sometimes when my father worked downtown he would bring us caramel corn from a specialty shop on Clinton Avenue. It came in a red and white striped box and was sweet, salty, buttery, crunchy and usually still warm. It would stick to my teeth and be gone in 10 minutes but it was the best treat ever because it made me feel special and happy and remembered. To this day caramel corn is the way to my heart.
I feel ok that my kids don’t have a dad because I try and give them a lot of caramel corn moments. And they have a step-mom and plenty of adults who love them. And there are some good men in my life and that’s what I want for my kids. So Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there or all you dad wannabes or folks with dads or memories of dads. Here’s to all your dad or no-dad stories. Be sure to tell one today – even if it’s to yourself.