Skip navigation

Tag Archives: father

My dad. Looking for that change I was supposed to give back.

If Mother’s Day is a sonnet, Father’s Day is a bullet point list. Dads don’t need the fancy words or deep sentiment (although it’s me, so I can’t guarantee a sentiment-free post, try as I might). Just a simple, straightforward shock-and-awe campaign of thanks. I will shock and awe you with my thanks because I’m glad you’re my dad! Sounds aggressive, but I’m pretty damn thankful. So here we go… I present the Father’s Day Bullet Point List of Dadness Day Listings Day of Dad Awesomeness:

 

  • If, as I mentioned in my Mother’s Day blog, mom is the original Jedi, then dad is the original Han Solo: less of the touchy-feely force stuff, more gumption, mechanically inclined, weathered, experienced, can always get you out of a jam. Han Solo dads may not always be so elegant and light-sabery, but they get the job done. Just like Han, dads tell you to toughen up. They act tough. Sometimes dads take you to sketchy bars where you cavort with bounty hunters.

 

He may not look like Han Solo, but he's done the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Way faster than your dad.

  • So you’re in a bar cavorting with bounty hunters. You ask, Dad, why are we here, in a bar with bounty hunters? And he says, It’s good for you. Trust me, you’ll thank me later. And at the moment he’s never been more obtuse. You scrunch your nose like something stinks and it does because you’re confused out of your small mind. You can’t imagine why he would utter such a thing. Eventually this moment passes, but there are others throughout your life. They are always uncomfortable or annoying or just plain maddening. Maybe it’s not always bounty hunters and bars like it was with my dad. Maybe it’s making you paint a fence against your will or pressing you take the heat for a ball through the neighbor’s window or making you read some boring, esoteric book. It’s always, he says, good for you. You still don’t get it. Time passes. After a while you come to expect his insistence on certain things. You oblige with less resistance. Then one day when you’re older it hits you: Dad was right. It was good for me. You still can’t fathom exactly how he was right or how he knew or how this forced apology or that chore helped you, but it did. It made you responsible, resilient, and capable. And Dad knew it would.

 

  • Dad gives good advice: move your thumb away from that nail, always check the oil, keep your hands off that girl, if that boy touches you then kick him in the balls, save your money, take it easy with the lighter fluid, check your mirrors, work hard, always be honest.

 

  • Dad gives the craziest advice: if you’re thirsty just suck on a rock, don’t ever ask for permission to play golf, if the ball is coming toward you lean into it and go to first, open it with your teeth, if it smells okay it’s okay to eat, always be honest.

 

  • Let’s be clear about one thing: golf is the most irritating game ever conceived. Sometimes I wonder if it was a joke that a few Scots dreamed up to see how stupid mankind really is. I’ve invented more creative cussing combinations on the golf course than I have anywhere else. All this and I continue to play this ridiculous sport. Why? Because I grew up playing it with my dad. He taught me everything I know and each time I go out—even when he’s not with me—I think about playing golf with him. I think about Dad trying to putt on the sand greens at the old Byers course and his congratulations after the first, and only, time I hit the ball straight. I think about watching the US Open with him on Father’s Day. So through all the discomfort of playing golf, there is a great deal of comfort because it’s Dad’s game. And though I may be an idiot for playing, it’s reassuring to know that there’s another idiot who I regard in high esteem with me.

 

  • Dad takes you on adventures. A few samples from the Bill O’Dell collection: canoeing in a gator-infested swamp (the canoe turned over), taught me to drive a manual transmission when I was about 10, careening down more the Strasburg overpass sled hill, whitewater rafting adventures, more hikes than I can count, an ocean liner gambling binge, several ill-advised ski runs, and many seedy restaurant visits because said restaurant has a “good patty melt.”

Me and Dad on an adventure.

  • Dads keep you safe. As a kid I would wake up in the middle of the night. I could never get back to sleep. So the drill was for me to go get my dad and wake him up. He would sleepily grab a blanket and pillow and take up a post on the living room couch while I tried to go back to sleep in my room. Being alone just didn’t feel right. It was dark. The house was creaking. Something in my overactive brain wouldn’t let me sleep when it was just me. But when Dad was there it was okay. Every so often I would call out, Dad? Yes, he’d say, patiently waking up. I’d pause for a minute, Just wanted to make sure you were still there. And he was always still there. So I fell asleep.

 

Dad,

  • You’re an awesome dude.
  • You have always put your family first and I admire you for that.
  • Thanks also for making me do things I didn’t want to do. I’m a better man for it.
  • I hope that I have it in me to be the same amazing father for my daughter as you have been for me.
  • I will need some more good/crazy advice.
  • You’ve done a great job raising four pieces of work. I mean that in a good way. We love you. Happy Father’s Day.

One of my favorites.

I’ve been away. And to all three of you who read this blog, I will try to be more consistent with my entries.

In the last few weeks I have: A) Had my wisdom teeth removed, which was a lot more fun that I expected. It’s not often that I get to wake up with a mouthful of gauze, discuss my apparent desire to visit a Taiwanese strip club with my wife, make goat noises, get reprimanded by a nurse, then go home and watch crappy movies while I suck down lemon Jello. B) Started a non-profit corporation. In doing so I am deep into IRS forms that I have no business looking in the eye. C) Gotten another tattoo. Apologies to my mother. D) Finished a couple of screenplays. Anyone got a few hundred thousand dollars, an iron stomach, and a morbid longing to be an executive producer?

There’s one more thing. I wouldn’t say I “did” it; it just happened—I’m pretty sure my biological clock started ticking. This is without a doubt the girliest thing I’ve ever thought, said or written.

Wait. I ought to start with an apology. Several weeks ago I spoke with my cousin, Katie, over the phone. Now, Katie is one of my favorite people. She’s fun and hilarious and considerate. Just an all-around good person. She’s married to a really cool dude named Mike. She’s also younger than me, quite a bit younger. Young enough to be called “my little cousin Katie.” Young enough that I remember burping her when she was a baby.

Katie: Hi.

Me: Hi.

Katie: So I have some news.

Me: Great.

Katie: I’m pregnant.

(Weird pause because I’m thinking, Oh boy, my little cousin Katie is pregnant which means I’m way behind and she’s much younger and way more put together and what’s wrong with me? and this is certainly a selfish thing to be thinking right now and wow, Katie is pregnant and I better get my act together and say something right now.)

Me: Bleh.

Actually I’m not sure what my response was and, while I’m not an interesting person, I hope I responded interestingly. You know, I hope I said something supportive. Not something pseudo-cool and laid-back like “Great work.” That sounds like a red-inked comment on the top of a 1st grade spelling assignment. And it’s weird. Work? Something pun-laced: “This is mom-entous news,” or “What pregnant occasion.” Maybe I just went with sheer excitement. “Holey moley!” Regardless, what I should have said was this: Katie, I’m hugely excited for you and Mike. You are going to be a wonderful set of parents. Congratulations and sorry for the lame reaction.

I was preoccupied when Katie broke the news because at that exact moment I had a birth of my own. Right then I welcomed into the world my newest schizophrenic personality. 316 lbs. 7 oz. 5’4”. Balding on the crown of his head. His messy three-piece suit doesn’t help his sweating problem. He even came with a tattered brief case. He is Keith, The Age-Calculating Mathematician. Keith is a jerk.

Keith's weapon of choice.

(Keith and I sit at a rickety, folding card table in a cement room. Keith is out of breath as a result of walking into the room. Keith pulls a loud adding machine from his brief case. He smiles at me like an IRS auditor would.)

Keith: Okay… How old are you again?

Me: Thirty-three

(Keith elongates his bottom lip and breathes in the corners of his mouth.)

Keith: Ouch.

(Keith punches numbers into his adding machine.)

Keith: Read WebMD much?

Me: No.

Keith: Interesting.

Me: What?

Keith: Nothing.

Me: What?

Keith: It has information… Lots of good information about having kids after your reproductive prime.

Me: Reproductive prime?

Keith: I can give you the website.

Me: I know the website.

(Keith looks at me awkwardly then punches more numbers into his adding machine.)

Keith: It’s w-w-w-dot…

Me: Shut up, Keith. Just run the numbers.

Keith: Right

(Typing.)

Keith: Okay… (Looks up) When are you going to die?

Me: Excuse me?

Keith: Ballpark.

(I stare at Keith for a while.)

Keith: Let’s go at this a different way. Let’s say you have a kid by thirty-five, just to be safe. (Punching numbers.) That means you’re fifty-five when he or she… Boy or girl?

Me: I don’t care.

Keith: We’ll just say a girl because girls are more likely to embrace an older-than-average father.

(I sigh.)

Keith: So she’s twenty and you’re fifty-five. (Typing on machine, the printer paper is getting longer.) How many kids?

Me: Let’s say three.

Keith: All girls then… Say you have them all by the time you’re forty… That means you’re sixty when the youngest is twenty and you’ve also got a twenty-five-year old and a, say, twenty-three-year old. And you keep in pretty good shape so you should be able to keep up when they’re kids: play basketball with them, clown around in the yard, et cetera.

Me: (Smiling) Right.

Keith: And sixty’s not that old.

Me: Exactly.

Keith: It’s the new thirty.

Me: That’s what they say.

(Keith starts frantically typing numbers in the adding machine. His brow furrows. He sweats. The tape gets longer. Keith suddenly stops; he puts on a fake smile. Keith is a bad liar.)

Me: Spill the beans, Keith.

Keith: How important is the whole grandfather thing?

Me: Pretty important.

Keith: On a scale of one to ten.

Me: Ten.

Keith: Cause let’s just say, hypothetically, that your oldest doesn’t have a kid until she’s thirty-five, cause the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. This puts you at seventy when you become a grandfather. When did you say you’re going to die?

(I burn a hole in Keith’s face with my eyes.)

Keith: Anyway, by then life expectancy should be up around seventy-six for an American male. So a solid six years with the little ankle-biter… Did I mention WebMD?

Me: Shut your trap, Keith.

Keith: Cause they have an excellent Life Expectancy Calculator. It’s free.

(I slouch into my chair. Keith pulls a package of Tic-tacs from his briefcase. He offers me one. I shake my head.)

Keith: And look on the bright side. All these figures are dependent on whether or not you even have the ability to conceive.

These do not make me feel better, Keith.

Talking with Keith drives me up the wall. I want to slap his face, but that would mean slapping my… Perhaps I should try it anyway.

Seriously, what the hell have I been doing with myself? It’s not like I’ve had huge career success that would force me to delay having a family. I’m 99.5% unsuccessful! I don’t even have a career! True, I wanted to be married before having kids and I didn’t get married until I was thirty. Problem is I dilly-dallied with the wedding thing too. That is, Alex and I were together for many years before I finally bought the ring. We wanted to wait because of school.

Wait a minute. Couldn’t have kids earlier cause I wasn’t married. Didn’t get married earlier cause I was an older-than-average graduate student. Didn’t go to grad school earlier because…. Oh, dear God. There’s only one logical explanation: I’ve got a debilitating condition that retards my maturity level by five to ten years. This is also known as being a screw-off.  What if this is nature’s way of telling me that I shouldn’t be having kids? What if I ignore the signs, have kids anyway, and in doing so I create a tribe of screw-offs? Forget zombies or a catastrophic asteroid event or alien lasers. I might trigger the apocalypse just by having kids. WebMD has a fantastic article about this, I’m sure.

It’s weird, too, because I can’t exactly give a reason why I feel the need to multiply. So maybe I’ve waited to have kids in the hope that I’d come up with an answer. There’s the standard reply: I want to have kids so I’ll have someone to forcefully push toward excellence at the things I was never good at in the hope that I can live vicariously through them and somehow redeem myself for my own failures. Other than that, why do I want to have kids? I have no idea. I know that all you forward thinkers out there will say that I’m just falling in line with the status quo and maybe you’re right. Biology majors will say that such a need is ingrained in my DNA in order to propagate the species. Also true. Frankly, I’m not afraid of either of these reasons, but they’re so general. I’d still like to find something else, a solid personal reason why I should have kids. So far this is the best I’ve come up with: I think having kids would be neat.

Whatever my reason for not yet being a father, the bottom line is that I feel behind. Behind and old. Behind and old and panicky. And, yes, I’m aware that thirty-three isn’t that old. It’s just older than I thought I’d be when this type of thing came up and that makes me itchy. Compounded with Keith and all his numbers and sweating and statistics and WebMD and the fear that maybe I missed my window—this is a bad combination. So what’s a screw-off, wannabe rapper, wannabe father to do?

Shut up, Keith. It’s a rhetorical question.

-MC JLight