I read a great article in The Wall Street Journal recently.The female author wrote a piece on the extended adolescence of males in this country. She asked, “Why is it that the men of today seem more like the boys we babysat than the Dads who drove us home?” I am so blessed to have been raised by a man and not an adolescent. He is the Eagle Scout, military man, my greatest supporter and one of those rare individuals whose word is their bond.
My Dad is truly a self-made man. Much to the dismay of my surgeon grandfather and pediatrician great aunt, his pre-med advisor quickly pointed out his aptitude for a career in medicine was lacking but noticed he excelled at business. A disappointed medical family with a business major at the University of Toledo on their hands informed my Dad he was now responsible for his education. This would baffle and defeat many, but for my Dad it simply inspired him. It’s hard to believe my parent’s marriage that began with $11 between them has endured over five decades.
Of course, his inner fortitude led to his success but his DNA, even though not being used in the medical field, came in handy in the business world. The man is a walking computer. As my girls say, he “freaks them out.” They find it nearly impossible to do homework around him. Maria was studying one evening and asked if I had ever heard of the Gulf of Tonkin. Like a “BING” search engine commercial sans blinking and in one breath my Dad intervened saying, “In 1964, alleged attacks by North Vietnam on two U.S. ships led President Johnson to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.” Umm, gee thanks.
I clearly remember him telling me as a young girl after his Dad died, “My Father was a human doing, not a human BEING. You are going to know me.” And know him I do. He always made me breakfast at o’dark hundred, which frankly, I did not appreciate at the time. Unlike my sloth-like Mom who gets a pulse around 10:30am, my former military man of a father hits the floor running. In quick succession he would rattle off a barrage of questions, “Oatmeal? Cereal? Waffle?” barely giving me time to answer. I would arrive at the bus stop full of nutrition but with an elevated blood pressure.
He is also a tad on the competitive side. He plays “SORRY” as if his life depends on it. When he calls out an insincere “sorry” with the smug grin on his face, it can be a tad grating. The most dreaded question he could ever ask me was, “How about being my doubles partner?” I would stand there shaking in my sneakers as he hit 80 percent of anything that came over the net. When the ball did come directly my way, I closed my eyes and hoped for the best only to hear a “humph” out of Dad. “Sorry Dad”, I said. “NO! We got that one!” he said. “Well can’t we make a happy sound then like YIPEE?!” I would ask. He has slowed down on the court but gets to relive the game through my varsity playing daughters. God love my Mom. When he would get a bit too “into it,” especially when yelling “That’s the way!” my mother would say, “Jim go to the car!” Yet, here’s the thing: the reason I have tennis playing daughters is because he is big into providing experiences such as tennis lessons, education and “memory making moments” for others. He is also THERE. I don’t think dads realize how important it is to try and be there. We daughters are always looking and it is not humanly possible to count how many times he has witnessed not only my activities but those of his grandchildren.
The grandchildren are always in the frontal lobe of Dad’s brain. My brother’s family is down south so he is left to contend with my all-estrogen clan. He tolerates our female goofiness, giggle fests and “that’s what she said” humor. My oldest once asked him after his third “Oh good Lord” response to one of our silly sessions, if he had “vagina envy.” He is a trouper. He was the fill-in for the Indian Princess camping trip where my youngest threw up on him after eating her entire package of smuggled Oreos. He once used his mathematical skills to figure out how many times he has heard “Hot Cross Buns” played horrifically on wind instruments. At times I think he feels his days of army basic training were easier.
I hope my daughters find men that are like the dads who drove us home and not ones that act as if they need childcare. They have a tremendous example of what it feels like to have a strong, supportive male loving them. Happy Father’s Day Dad.