Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Day

I spent this Father's Day alone. Through no fault of anyone's. Elise and I plan well. Birthdays and Father's Days, however, sometimes get overlooked. For example, last year, I planned a surprise trip for Elise to go on a solo girl's weekend to NYC with her best friend....on Father's Day.

I spent this Father's Day split between thinking of my role as both a father and a son, perhaps, fairly or not, comparing myself to my dad. My parents are divorced, and I don't remember spending a lot of time with my dad growing up. I think this is the biggest and, in my mind, the most important difference. I think of my dad as a good dad, but was he always there? No. I want to think that he did the most he could with the time he had, but on the other hand, I remember on the weekends he did have us, spending Saturday nights with a babysitter, ordering Dominoes pizza, while he went out. Now, that I am a father, I can't see myself doing that. If I got four nights with my kids all month (not counting the every other Thursday night outing to Brown's Chicken), I don't think I would spend two of them at a bar or on a date or wherever he went.

I have vivid memories of him both being there for me and not. I have this very clear recollection from elementary school of being dropped in front of the bus loop. I was being dropped off in the middle of the morning, having to get out of school for a doctor's appointment or something. My dad drove a Corvette then, and I left something important in the back of his car, my homework or lunch, perhaps. I realized it immediately, and as the Corvette spun out of the bus loop, I ran the length of the sidewalk waving my arms and yelling for him to stop, but he never did. He just kept on driving. I am sure that there are probably a thousand reasons why he didn't see or hear me, but to this day I can't help but wondering how he couldn't have.

At the same time, my dad came to every one of my swim meets in high school. Even the tiny dual meets that didn't mean anything. Our home meets were at Riverside Country Club in Tequesta which means he had to leave his office in downtown West Palm Beach and drive about 45 minutes north on I-95 to be there. Hilariously, he parked his Porsche right in front of the country club, in the fire lane or on the sidewalk in front.

My dad never talked to me about the birds and the bees. Before I left to go to college, we walked on the beach in front of his townhouse in Juno and he told me about a guy he worked with that had knocked up this girl and now he was stuck with having to pay for this kid's child support. That was it. Those were his words of wisdom. An important warning, I suppose.

The most important thing about my dad is he is the person who most encouraged me to pursue my writing. Every time I talked to him on the phone, whether I was toiling away at Mondo's in the middle of the night, spending every waking hour of daylight at my computer writing or calling from Colorado where I basically did the same thing only at a different restaurant, he asked me how the writing was coming. He read most everything I wrote. I see this same encouragement flowing from him now for my half-sister. It is this characteristic I think I admire most in him, because my dad is practical man. He is a very successful businessman who would find it easy to also encourage his children to follow practical pursuits, but instead he pushes them to follow their hearts. It is unexpected. It will be easy to be this way with my children. Elise and I are both idealists and just want our children to be happy. If Sam is painting houses, doing hair, or brokering billion dollar mergers on Wall Street or is a neurosurgeon, at the end of the day we both know we just want him to be happy.

I worked for my dad for ten years. This wasn't as hard as it sounds, because I didn't have to work very hard to make very good money. Until the global financial crisis hit and I had to leave to find another way to support my family.

I talked to my dad recently, and he felt very far away. I haven't seen him in over a year and a half. He was in the middle of selling his house and moving, and I could tell he was stressed. Elise and I have moved four times in as many years, and I found myself comforting him. I hung up the phone and cried.

I don't know if I am a good dad. I think I am and I think Elise thinks I am. I try to be around. That's important to me. That if nothing else, my kids could say I was there when they needed me, whether it was to pull them out of a t-shirt stuck on their head, to bring them toilet paper when they run out, or to kill a spider that got into the house. Sometimes, I get stuck on how I am going to pay for them to go to college. But I try not to worry. They'll go if they want to, and if they have to take out loans, I'll pay those back for them, too. I try to remember to have dance parties, play Boinger, throw them in the air, play Tigerman-Cheetahman with them, give them submarine rides in the pool, sneak Girl Scout cookies into their school lunches, pick them up when they fall. I know this is the easy stuff. Soon, I'll be doing calculus homework, changing flat tires, and picking them up from parties where there was drinking.

But for now, I'm okay with dirty diapers and fighting over Transformer toys.

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