A Father on Father’s Day

What does Father’s Day mean to me, I ask myself.  Hmmmmm….another day down, another day closer to…well…you know…THE END!

Ok, maybe not that dire.  Being a father is the toughest job I’ve ever had.  By far the toughest (I’m not counting being a bus boy at Howard Johnson’s.  I’ve blocked that from my memory).  Tougher than night landings at the carrier off the coast of Iraq; tougher than a two-day conference with 25 engineers; tougher than watching Lobo baseball while freezing to death.

When my kids were born, I figured that I’m just like all the other guys who were fathers.  Play with them at night, change a few diapers, put them in a stroller, save for college, listen to the women talk about how they looked.  Unfortunately, I was not even prepared for the truth; especially after becoming a single-parent.

Sharing custody with young children who lived 6 thousand miles away was brutal.  The lonely, sleepless nights I spent crying was like a nightmare that never ended.  Worrying about their environment, with a lunatic step-father in their house, kept me angry and alert.  Flying to Germany and later to Korea was bittersweet.  I loved spending my week or two with them during the Holidays, but leaving just ripped my heart out.  When they visited for the summer, I tried to make their stay as memorable and fun as possible.  I frequently failed, but I never stopped trying.  I remember driving up to LAX from San Diego to put my kids on a flight back to Korea.  My 10 year old son cried the entire drive while my daughter and I tried to console him.   He just didn’t want to go back.  My heart was shattering while I drove in LA traffic.  After I got them checked-in and on the plane, I drove to a park alongside the runway.  As I watched the plane take-off, I hung on the chainlink fence, crying uncontrollably.  I think the homeless guy sitting 10 feet away actually felt sorry for me.  Let me tell you, that blurry drive home was fun!

As they grew older, the problems become more manageable and predictable.  You know…”Gawd Dad, everybody dyes their hair.”  Or, “Geez Dad, I don’t need to wear a belt!”  My answers:  “I don’t care” and “Pull up them damn pants!”  Having a single parent raise me was a tremendous help.  I frequently asked my mom for advice.  Sage as ever, she would just smile and say, “just love them.”  Mom, you were right!

As boys and girls showed up in their lives, along with jobs and college, my fatherly inputs became more specific…and wrong!  I learned as a father, you can count on a few things:  you’re always out of touch; you just don’t understand; and, my personal favorite, you’re just old and grouchy.  All of those are normally followed by “can I ‘borrow’ some money?”

You know, it really is HARD to say “no” to your kids.  I would love to agree with them all the time.  I wish I could say, “sure, drink and drive”….or, “that’s ok, I’ll pay your parking tickets”…or, “you’re not crazy for stalking that boy/girl.”  However, my job is to say NO!  It also really pays off when I get to say, “What the hell are/were you thinking!”

Fathers are like sin-eaters…we absorb all the crap and others get the credit.   If we’re really lucky, we get to hear the mothers say, “You don’t understand.  You’re not a mother.”  No shit…yeah, I’m just the Dad.  You mean I don’t love them as much; worry about them as much; wish they made better choices, remember their angelic faces as babies??  We, as fathers, get blamed for global warming,  lack of gun control, genocide, fratricide, world wars,  and no romance.  To that I say:  WHATEVER!!  I know the truth.

I’ve worked my ass off trying to expose them, prepare them, discipline them, motivate them, and yes, even nurture them.  I know I’ve made many mistakes…I admit them every night, after my second scotch or first Grey Goose toonie.  I don’t hide from he truth.  I just wonder what the hell I was thinking about those twenty-plus years ago.  Yup, kids truly are the gift that keeps on giving.

However, there are successes.  My favorite moments  are when my daughter calls me “Poppa” and says she loves me; and when my boy says “Daddy-O, you were right.”  I’ll never forget when they both got their first paychecks;  “Dad, what the hell is FICA?”  Explaining car loans, compound interest and investment strategies are now more popular topics of discussion than Taylor Swift, YouTube. and whatever happened to Danity Kane? On their paydays, I get to thank them for contributing to my social security as they moan about how much taxes they pay.   Ahhhhhhhhhhh….it’s been worth it!

What does Father’s Day mean to me?  I’ll tell you:  it means that I’m being recognized for being there; for being involved; for caring enough to slap them down and pick them up; for being a role model; for being right sometimes; for holding them tight and letting them go; and especially, for loving them!

Now, if I can just get my four-legged son to stop pooping in the flower beds.  “Thunderball, what are you thinking?!”

Happy Father’s Day!!