Today is Father’s Day here in the States. It doesn’t quite get as much fanfare as Mother’s Day gets here in May (and seeing as I have at least one follower from the UK, yes, we celebrate Mother’s Day here in May instead of March like you all do). Maybe that’s because male gender roles here don’t require as much pomp (You’re supposed to get flowers for Mom and take her out to brunch, but all Dad gets is a necktie and a coffee mug?), or men in general just aren’t crazily into said pomp? Some people grow up without a father, but I was one of the lucky ones.
My dad and I have a somewhat complicated relationship. Maybe that stems from my childhood years, when my dad worked various jobs to make ends meet and my mom stayed home to take care of me and my little brother (who is now celebrating his second ever Father’s Day…his first came just a couple of weeks after his daughter, my niece was born). As a result, I developed close bonds with both my mom and my maternal grandmother (who would come over and watch us on days off from school after Mom returned to work), but not so much with my father. But it didn’t seem like things really started to fall apart for us until I became a teenager. We began having major personality clashes then, usually over one thing: politics. My dad has been a staunch Republican for as long as I can remember. My own life experiences and reactions to major events of my childhood and teenage years (Columbine, 9/11, the war in Iraq, my growing dissatisfaction with religion, and my almost-always present love of all things related to science) clearly began sending me on a course that would send me to the opposite side of the spectrum. I think the issue he had with me asserting my own views was not so much hatred of the other side, but I think it felt more like a betrayal to him and everything he believed in or supported. In a way, the feeling I got of him not having my back in this felt like a betrayal to me, like I was no longer worthy of his love. We had numerous arguments in those years. It led to me closing myself off from him emotionally, making sure he was no longer privy to my thoughts and feelings. Though things have improved since then, this isolation is still something I struggle with; it still brings tears to my eyes.
In my twenties, I discovered baseball wasn’t so boring. In fact, great games played out almost like soap operas, with moments of drama and heightening anticipation in between runs or leading up to a game winner or walk off. Slowly, I would start asking questions about the game or what kind of rule was being enforced, and he would explain. This would turn into moments of us watching a game together, and he would begin to wax poetic at the mention of certain players from his childhood and young adult years: Phil Niekro (“the dirtiest pitcher in the game, knew how to doctor and baseball and would see if he could get away with it”), Dale Murphy, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine (you can tell he was a Braves fan, right?), Johnny Bench. We wouldn’t say much during these games, but we’d just sit back and watch it all play out. We had once again found something in common. Same with watching professional wrestling, a favorite pastime of his since childhood, and eventually from my childhood. Though words were usually left unspoken, we knew there was an understanding. This also brings tears to my eyes.
Despite our issues, he’s remained one of my biggest champions. He had my back when I struggled with reading classes in middle school because I had a lack of motivation and hated doing homework, resulting in my only F of my academic career. A few years later, he had my back when my struggles with high school geometry became exposed and I was on the verge of failing that class (I genuinely had problems understanding the concepts). He helped my teachers come up with ways to raise my grades in both classes, which I eventually did. For all the times he’d berated me about being chronically unemployed, he’d also encourage me when he knew I’d found something I truly loved (and thanks to that encouragement, I hope to eventually be able to sell some of my hand-knit treasures and start to make some of my own money…a traditional 9 to 5 may be out of my reach by now because of my inexperience, but it is not my top priority right now, as my mom needs me more than the rest of the world does; I’d prefer to keep why she does private). We watch shows like MasterChef and Survivor together with genuine interest. I watch him play video games with wide eyes, and sometimes he watches me play, too. We enjoy listening to hard rock and heavy metal music, but I also sit back and watch him sing along to old and outlaw country songs. I listen to his work stories and pretend to understand the technical jargon, and also laugh at the ridiculous stories he tends to bring home. I let him hug me if I’m upset (not very often), and tell him “I love you” before he leaves for work every work night and he gets ready to drive the 40-50 miles or so into Orlando to go to work. I watch him turn into a total goober when he plays with his granddaughter.
It took us a long time to get back to civil. Most people use the words “doting” or “adoring” to describe their dads. Mine? I’d say he’s: dependable, fierce, and willing to do anything for the sake of his kids. I never got the adoring dad or the dad with whom I could share my heart’s thoughts like Molly Ringwald’s character Andie does with hers in Pretty in Pink. But the one I did get, I could say, has been a constant in my life as has always stood up for me in the most unexpected of times. As I said before, not everybody gets to grow up with a dad in their life. I was one of lucky ones.
Before I finish, I’d like to leave you with a song by one of my dad’s favorite singers and a legendary song he wrote about a dad’s complicated relationship with his son: “Cat’s in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin.
Happy Father’s Day to all you dads and kids of dads out there!