I like to think of myself as a pretty decent gift-giver. Strike that. I’m a phenomenal gift-giver. There are only a few people in my life who really trip me up when I’m looking for the perfect gift. The first is my husband, who for the most part, isn’t known for eliciting any exceptional amount of enthusiasm in a given situation (barring the birth of our children and a favorable sports outcome). The second, is my dad, who similarly isn’t your typical “ra-ra” type personality. After reviewing some collective data (pie charts, line graphs etc) and putting together a small think tank, I settled on a gift for Rob. But this year, for my dad, I’m going to do something a little different.
My dad grew up all over the United States. I like to think that everywhere he went he picked up a new trade. New information. Additional input to catalogue away for later use. He left home when he was young to…well he left home when he was young because he was young. We’ll refer to this as his “spiritual walkabout.” Out on his own, he found his purpose. Where he was supposed to go, what he was supposed to do, and who it was all for. I think one day he just opened his eyes and saw things for what they were. If you want to meet a guy who’s found the meaning of life, look him up.
I can only recall two times in my entire childhood when my dad was mad. The first, is better left in the past, and the second should be retold every time an audience is big enough to appreciate it. I’m talking about the time he picked my friend and I up from the movies and a couple of guys from our school caught up to us in their car, and mooned us. Yes. Mooned us with my dad in the driver’s seat. Foolish, foolish children. So like any respectable dad, we engaged in a high-speed pursuit. After pulling into the Burger King drive-thru my dad stalked past their car driving lasers through their glassy-teenage eyeballs. At the time I think he was embarrassed of the way he acted, but not me. That’s my dad.
When he taught me to drive, it was in his giant, white work van. It beeped when it backed up. Then I was embarrassed. He taught me to stay in the middle of the lane if you don’t know where you’re going. The “indecision lane” he called it. He showed me how to hold a hammer, how to fix a toilet, why when one blinker is out the other blinks double time, how to solve for x, and that “this too shall pass.”
When I was 8, my sister and I picked out calendars for one another for Christmas. My dad oversaw all wrapping procedures and accidentally mixed ours up. Instead of dressing my sister’s N*Sync calendar, I was staring at my brand new cat calendar (this was a regrettable phase in my life where I was really into cats), two days before Christmas. I was so upset, and told my dad how devastated I was that the magical joy of Christmas had been crushed before my very eyes. I am literally still wracked with guilt every time I think about 8-year old me. In my adult eyes I imagine he probably rolled his eyes and thought, “I should throw that calendar in the toilet,” except I know that he didn’t. Because that’s just not who he is.
When you become a parent, the lens with which you look on your parents is colored significantly. First of all, you realize how selfish you are. Second, you realize that your parents are fallible, but tried hard and tried hard every day. Third, there’s no expiration on being a parent. To the first point, sorry, dad. Sorry for not understanding what it meant for you to leave every day and work so hard for us. Sorry for not choosing to stay home from whatever I was doing Friday night to watch reruns of Highlander instead. To the second point, I just didn’t know how hard it could be. If I could raise my kids to feel about me, the way that your kids feel about you, I would know that I did it right. And finally, the relationship between a father and child evolves, but the fundamentals are unchanging. I’ll never be too old to learn more, I’ll always call you before operating any heavy machinery, and I’ll never think its anything less than awesome that one of your favorite songs is Rockafeller Skank.
Merry Christmas, Dad.