Tag Archives: Fathers

Put Your Tiny Hand in Mine

Father Knows BestNo 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.

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I’m A Lot Like You Are

My father has given up on the world. Whenever I talk to him he is wrestling with despair. He doesn’t understand why so many terrible things are happening around him. Why God took my mother and not the alcoholic down the street. Why Uncle Joey, the kindest man on earth, has to suffer with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and now a broken hip. Why my mother’s niece, pregnant for the first time with twins, looked out in the back yard this past Saturday where her husband was mowing the lawn and watched him drop to the ground, dead from a massive heart attack.

Cliche is his only recourse. He says things like, it is what it is. Or, it’s a great life if you don’t weaken. He watches crime shows on TV and eats Keebler Cheese & Peanut Butter Sandwich Crackers. On Wednesdays he goes to the grocery store. He chats with the guy at the deli counter, teases the checkout girls, buys a lottery ticket. This takes up half his day. He goes to dinner once a week with a family member, and sits in the back pew at 4:00 mass on Saturdays. But it’s a shadow of a life. His heart is broken. His faith clatters around inside him like a rusty gate in the wind.

We used to talk only briefly. How’s the car running? Is it cold there? OK, here’s your mother. Now we go on and on. I try to sympathize, agree with him, hide my problems. I tell him what I’m cooking for dinner. I tell him work is busy but good. I tell him about the school plays and shopping for Converse All Stars for my daughter and the price of gas this week. I coo like a dove at his complaints and outrage. When I hang up the phone I feel bloated with sadness.

In my father’s high school year book under his senior picture it says that he wants to own a drug store one day. Instead he worked as a service man at the gas and electric company for 40 plus years. Once he spent a month as foreman of a grand jury. Every day he wore a tie and brought the secretaries donuts. When he finally retired, the OJ trial was on. He watched it religiously and took notes on a yellow legal pad. I should have been a banister, he said. I wonder how many dreams he deferred.

Sometimes I picture myself like my father, old and alone. What will I regret, wring my hands over, talk to my children about? It worries me, and yet, I think it will be different because I’ll have books. I’ll have writing. I’ll tell stories. These are my long-time companions For better or worse, I have made a life with them. They will stay with me until the end and keep teaching me, nurturing me and fueling my sense of purpose and hope. I think it will be ok. If I don’t weaken.

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