Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Father’s Day 2014 After-Action Report

It was, by far, the best Father’s Day yet, for all the wrong reasons. At least I expect most people to find them “wrong.” After all, how good can it be if you’re not poked, prodded, pushed, pulled, and otherwise overstimulated on a day that’s supposed to be Your Day?

I told my children early on that the best gift for me on any given Father’s Day is for them to make plans, and leave me out of them. No drama. No questions. No watch-this, wanna do that, whatever. I’ve got all the rest of the year to deal with you guys. Let me have the next best thing to a day off. 

This year, I got a full day off.

Of course, I’m pretty much at the finish line as far as the parenting thing goes. My daughter is going on 21; my son is a couple of months away from starting his senior year in high school. He turns 18 in November, and I doubt he’ll be hanging around long after May next year. Not his style. 

Satan Devouring His Son by Peter Paul Rubens,
the same guy who fetishized fat chicks, so take
it for what it’s worth.
My daughter is making it work living on her own. God knows how, but she does. She was no doubt working at the big box store she cashiers at today. I didn’t hear from her, except for Saturday, when she stopped by where I was working and slipped me a couple of cigarettes. I’ve yet to smoke them. My willpower has been pretty good for the past few months (excellent, given the stresses of finishing a book), but I appreciate her gesture all the same.

My son has been working the local Civil Air Patrol encampment. I found a voicemail message from him on my phone yesterday. Technically, he’s not supposed to phone out, as one of the objectives of encampment is to teach young people how to deal with things without calling mom and dad for at least a week. My guess is some silly old thing with a bit of misplaced authority figured it Just Wasn’t Right that Daddy doesn’t get a call for Father’s Day—we’re such emotional little things, don’tcha know—so she handed their cell phones back to them and ordered those poor kids to call their fathers.

You can hear it in his voice. Still the message went on longer than it had to. It was garbled, as he was calling from inside an old building but I caught the necessary bits, namely, “everything’s okay” at encampment, Happy Father’s Day, and—I’m pretty sure he even said, “I love you,” which he’s never said to me before. 

I love my children enough that I don’t want them saying things that make them feel awkward, so I’m going to reciprocate by telling him I didn’t understand a thing but “Happy Father’s Day” and we’ll both smirk and laugh that he was made to do this.

That will be Saturday. He’ll be gone all week. I keep telling myself to get used to this—and to be glad I have to get used to this. The only basement-dwelling loser in this house is me. I’ve messed up a lot of things in my life, but so far as I can tell I didn’t mess up the kids. Not so much that they can’t function outside the house.

Some people need to be told.
This isn’t the first time I’ve been struck by my fantastic great fortune in regards to my children. I’ve known people who were really into that Being a Parent thing, who did everything right, and their kids turned out to be bad checks that keep coming back, with penalties, interest, and smelly laundry. Me, I entered into fatherhood grumbling and cursing all the way (my wife had the baby rabies; I was looking forward to going through my 30s and 40s footloose and offspring-free), and look what I got. They ain’t half-bad to look at, either.

I can’t think of a single thing I did to deserve this. Anything I did as a parent, it was the stuff that had to be done. The stuff you shouldn’t expect praise for. Again, I know people who did that stuff and so much more, and their return on investment was well into the negatives.

It was a beautiful, quiet summer Sunday. My wife came home from work and we popped the all-meat pizza she’d picked up at Wally World in the oven. 

It was very good day.