It’s cool here on my front porch. The thunderstorm we had earlier washed away most of the humidity and heat. Now, it’s quite temperate out. the streets are quiet which is unusual. Normally I have to struggle to listen to music while I write as the neighborhood kids chase each other in made up games. Their screams and shouts scaring most of the squirrels, cats and birds away from them. Now, however, it seems the semi-wildlife of my adoptive city know that it is safe to move around.
I can hear the chirp and calls of birds over the frantic piano playing of Dave Brubeck and the insane rhythms of Joe Morello on drums, somehow the call of the wild seems to meld in with the great jazz. This brings a smile to my face. After all, it’s not often when two worlds fit so snuggly together. This is a happy experience for me.
Which I suppose brings me to the upcoming non-holiday. What? Non-holiday? What is that? Well, I’ll tell you…
To me it has always been a non-holiday. After all, I can’t say as I really know any fathers who actually celebrate it like mothers do. Mothers get all the credit as they should. Us fathers, yes, I am a father, don’t really think about it too much. Well, in my experience that is.
Sure as a child I would make a card for my dad and maybe buy him a gift every now and again. Then with a sheepish grin on my face and a anxious and fluttering heart I’d present it to him with shaking hands. He would of course take the gift from my hand, smile and tussle my hair. He’d open the card or gift, pick me up and hug me and thank me. Then I’d be off to my room to do a puzzle, play with my action figures or go outside and go on adventures with my pals.
Then came the divorce and my mother got custody of us kids. There was no more celebrating fathers day for years after that simply because we didn’t have a father around to give cheap trinkets, ties, cards or cologne to. Fathers day was lost to attrition.
Then my mother remarried and us kids were expected to give her second husband fathers day cards and gifts. I never felt comfortable with that for more reasons than I wish to go into here. We obliged. Me grudgingly and mainly for the sole purpose of making my mom feel good.
When I left that home and moved in with my father and his family we celebrated in the usual way that families do. Cards and gifts and that was about it. While I went along with this ceremony, I still did not feel completely comfortable with it. After all, it’d been seven years since I’d really had anything to do with my real father and the man that had replaced him was in my opinion, a total ass.
Still, I cowed to the tradition and supplied a card or a token of respect or both and carried on with my life. I never truly understood why I was uncomfortable with this holiday until many years later.
I was in the Navy. Serving my country. Doing my duty and following in the footsteps of my own father. He served in the 1960’s and now I was serving in the 1980’s. During those years in the fleet, I can’t remember sending him a single card for the celebration of his contribution to my life. However; this time, it was not because I didn’t think about it or didn’t know it wasn’t coming up. After all, the Navy is one place where they do not allow you to forget Mothers or Fathers day. No, this time I do believe I made a conscious effort to not send warm thoughts and peaceful wishes to the two men who’d try to shape and influence my life in their own unique way.
I was in a very arrogant and pissed off position. I was on a journey to prove to those men that I was in charge of my life, I would do something they said I couldn’t do and I would succeed without them and their views on who and what I was.
Did I succeed in this quest?
Maybe, but it wasn’t without help.
In 1988 I met a man who would change my life. He was an older man, grizzled, tough and wise. He had a family of his own and in fact, he was the father of the woman I was dating and would later marry. Through his quiet acceptance of me and his encouraging words and patience with my naive youth, he helped mold me into a better person.
Then I went to work at his machine shop for ten years. In those years he taught me more about mechanics, machinery and life than I think I could have gleaned from the wisest of men in the history of the world. Every day I found myself learning something new, and when I’d make a mistake he didn’t get angry and yell at me or hit me, although he most likely wanted to. Instead he took his time to explain my error and how to correct it and even how to avoid making it again.
This sort of reserved teaching was not something I was used to nor had ever experienced in my life. A patient master teaching an eager apprentice. He taught me more than he could ever know.
He taught me how to be a man and more importantly he taught me how to be a father. For that, I am truly grateful.
So today, right now, I’m want to wish all you fathers day out there a “Happy Fathers Day”.
And for you George, I want to say “Thank you, your presence in my life has been invaluable in more ways than I can express. I love you and while you are not my father but my friend, I want to wish you a very happy and wonderful fathers day.”
Have a great week.