Fathers I Have Known

The following is a guest post from my own little mama. She’s got the goods.

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I’ve been thinking recently about fathers I have known, their similarities and their differences.

My mother’s father, my grandfather, comes to mind. Unfortunately, I never got to know him, because he died before I was born. One of the things I was told about him was that, when he was courting my grandmother, she knew he wouldn’t be coming to see her if it was raining. He had a white horse and didn’t want it to get muddy. Not sure what it says about his feelings for my grandma, but he loved that horse! They had five children together, and he built her a big beautiful house, but I really know nothing about what kind of father he was.

I knew my paternal grandfather much, much better. My brother and I got to spend lots of time at his and my grandmother’s house–wonderful times. If we spent the night, we always ended up at the kitchen table just before bedtime. We each had a cup of tea (caffeine shmaffeine), and on the table would be a big box of Kroger saltines and a big jar of Kroger peanut butter. It wasn’t really creamy or chunky; it was gritty. Nonetheless, those were some of the happiest times of my childhood. I realize now that it’s because our grandma and grandpa were totally THERE with us. They weren’t doing anything else; we were the most important things in their world, and that’s the best gift they could have given us. On hot summer afternoons, I also remember sitting with my grandpa in the big swing hanging from his apricot tree. I can smell those ripe apricots right now. What a lovely, loving grandfather he was to me. And the kicker? He looked just like James Taylor does right now; I’m not kidding.

Then there was his son, my own dad. I think it’s safe to say that dads back in the fifties and sixties were not as hands- on as many are today. I’m pretty sure he thought his job was to bring home a paycheck, take care of the yard, and fix anything (I mean anything) that was broken. I could leave anything that needed fixing, on his workbench at night, and the next morning it would be as good as new. My dad loved sports and working with his hands. He had played semi-pro baseball, and he and my mom spent their honeymoon going to one Cubs game after another. He and I didn’t have many meaningful conversations; he was much more comfortable with my brother than with me. I don’t think he quite knew what to do with me. Having said that, I never doubted his love for me; just can’t help wishing I had gotten to know him better, deeper.

My husband Michael is the father I’ve seen up closest. For much of Katy and Andy’s childhood, he had to travel with his work, usually Monday through Thursday. He agonized over being away so much and truly hated it toward the end. The thing was, though, when he was with us, he was really with us. He coached Andy’s soccer teams. He often went to the airport straight from a practice, and then practice straight from the airport upon his return. I don’t think he ever missed one of Katy’s skating competitions. He and I spoke on the phone every evening while he was gone, and I’d keep a list so I wouldn’t forget what I wanted to tell him. Every once in a while, he’d take one child on a trip with him. What I remember him saying about Katy’s first time was that she made the hotel bed in the morning, and ordered Frosted Flakes and a Danish from room service for breakfast. We all wished he could be home more, but he was doing it for us. We still have a framed note Katy made for him in first grade. It says, “I hope Dad dose not take so many tirps.” Michael has been a very involved father and grandfather ever since he “got off the road.” I see lovely moments between him and our children and grandchildren these days; there’s not a doubt in their minds that he’s nuts about them.

My son-in-law, Katy’s husband Chris, is a really good father. He got two for one when they had the twins, and he just jumped right in. I stayed with them for a week after the babies came. He and Katy each had their assigned twin, and I think he became very confident with his baby girl. (even though I did hear him say a couple of times–“I think I chose the wrong baby.” She woke up crying a lot for a while.) Two years later, he and Katy are a well-oiled team. Just watch them at bedtime; it’s like a ballet how they get those two settled down (well, sort of) for the night. I’ve seen the look on those two little faces when they catch sight of Dada walking home from the train after work–pure joy. He’s a good one.

And finally there’s our son Andy. He and Julie have two boys and two girls, from age ten down to two and a half. He might as well wear a sign that he loves being a dad. He has everybody outside, working out, playing sports, just enjoying life, every day. He’s often on the floor with four little bodies scrambling over him like puppies, with a big grin on his face. Julie had to be gone for a few days recently, and I bet she didn’t have to give him any instructions. He’s in on all the day-to-day stuff, so he just did it while she was gone. (Also, Lucy, five, is a little homemaker and mother, so there’s that.)

Anyway–times have changed; many dads have changed, and bravo for that. I truly hope that, more and more, kids and dads grow to really know each other. The world can only be a better place for it. I know that there are way too many children who don’t have a father at all, and my heart aches for them. If I were in charge, I’d change that right away. If by any chance you’re a dad who could do better, start right now; it’s not too late. Your children are craving it, and you’ll be a better man.

Happy Father’s Day.

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Some of the dads we know.

 

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