I do not agree with his assessment.
During one of those conversations, he told me he feels he should've been around more when I was little. I'm intrigued by how his filter is shaping his memory. It's true that when I was young, he had to work very hard to support our family, to pay my mom's college and then law school tuition, and to fulfill his responsibilities as a Navy fighter pilot during those earlier years. And over the last decade or so, he's articulated something that sounds vaguely like regret about what I guess he perceives as a notable absence during my childhood, even though he also knows that part of being a parent is being The Provider, which he absolutely was.
The thing is, I don't remember him being absent during my childhood. In fact, just the opposite. I remember him being very present. He was particularly present, for example, the day I crumpled the hood of the family Buick, the day I scraped the SUV against the side of the garage, and the semester I got a C- in Chemistry.
But he was also present for other stuff too. Good and important stuff.
The man taught me the single most important rule about being a parent: Show up. On a Good Dad Day, or a Bad Dad Day. Whether you're in the same town as your kids or not. If you find a way to show up for your kids, in one form or another, they'll get it. They'll know it.
And in the interest of showing up, I can say that I have plenty of memories that place my dad right by my side, at so many important moments in my life.
When I was two or three, he put me on my first horse. (Among other things, my dad was, is, and always will be a cowboy.) I dimly recall him hoisting me up onto what at the time seemed like a horse of Trojan proportions. I also remember him standing right next to me as I tried to grip the reins.
|Me and Dad.|
I remember the two of us throwing baseballs and footballs around in various front yards throughout my youth. He insisted on it, even after I reached the age when I thought playing catch with one's dad was, like, soooo lame. I'm sure my uppity adolescent attitude was truly smackworthy, but the man never lost his temper in the face of my snottiness. I never became a particularly great athlete, but I know I have much better hand-eye coordination because of him.
I remember the two of us riding our bikes in Boulder on many an Autumn Saturday, to watch the CU Buffs play whenever they had a home game. He and I would ride from our house up to campus, stop by the law library where my mom was studying, say Hi, and then pedal over to the stadium where we'd sit and cheer with all the good-natured, rowdy students.
I remember him attending every talent show, school play, and concert I was in during high school. And college as well, which meant traveling to California to do it. I was never particularly gifted in the performing arts, but Dad still came to countless auditoriums, and applauded until his hands stung. (The man sat through not one, but two back-to-back performances of Into the Woods. Do you understand what I'm saying?)
I remember him calling me during the more transient times in my life when I was between jobs, just to check in, asking if I was "doing ok." In other words, asking if I needed money. (This has never stopped. The most recent call of this type came last week.)
I remember him always doting on his granddaughter, the Mini-Pirate. Oh sure, this was easy back when she was tiny and adoring. But as she's gotten older, she likes to dole out love to her grandparents in carefully measured increments, which can be deeply frustrating to those who are devoted to her. And yet my Dad maintains his sense of calm, even when she's being slightly less than precious towards him.
|My girl is four-ish in this picture, in her ruffly-butt pants. She wasn't too interested|
in her Grandfather's fishing skills -- she just liked being around him.
|Mini-P and her grandfather, last Easter.|
And I remember last year, when he and my Mom were about to fly out to San Diego for a visit, and I knew I'd be telling them that I was gay. I was especially nervous about telling him. Even though my logical brain knew it would be fine, that he was a great person and a kind man and an outstanding father and those things do not change in the face of new information, I was still very anxious about it. You know. Fathers and sons, and all that.
Once they got here, I was a wreck during the actual conversation. It took me forever to get to the point. Remember the Coming Out blog post I wrote for you people? Remember how long that was? The preamble to telling my parents took longer than that. So long in fact, that my Dad finally had to interrupt my rambling and ask quietly, "Son, are you gay?"
Which made the moment a lot easier. I don't think he realizes how much.
And immediately after that, he made it very clear to me that even though homosexuality may be a concept that doesn't make a lot of sense to him, he was him, I was me, and we are forever father and son. And that's all that matters.
He wants me to be happy. Period.
My dad has shown up for me every day of my life. Every single day, regardless of how old I was, or where I was living.
|Dad and I on a cycling trip in Washington a few years ago.|
The man is still tough as nails.
This post may not get a lot of hits. That's ok -- there's really only one reader I want to see this.
Happy Father's Day, Dad. You da man.