According to the scary “How Babies Are Made” book that my mom read to me when I was 10, it takes two to produce a perfect child like myself. Here are 10 vignettes about my relationship with my dad for the past 34 years so you can understand the man who is responsible for me:
1. One of my earliest memories of my dad was playing wiffle ball in our backyard using a red Mickey Mouse themed bat. I believe I spent approximately 8 gazillion hours taking “batting practice” with it. Fatherhood is about repetition.
2. I sometimes give my dad a little crap (I know it is hard for any of you to imagine a world in which I would do this but just try) for going to watch my brother coach basketball. But then I think back to when I was 8 and my father would take me to high school softball games (all of them) just to watch me keep the scorebook for the team. Fatherhood is about willingly watching your child do activities that need no observation.
3. One day while driving me home from piano lessons, my dad asked me, “Do you know what happened to Beethoven late in his life?”
I replied without hesitation, “He died?”
Dad laughed. “Well, yes. But he also went deaf. That must have been pretty tough for a musician, don’t you think?”
“Whatever. Can I quit piano lessons?” I asked for the 800th time.
“I’ll tell you what. You can quit piano lessons when you are able to sit down and sight read whatever piece of music I put in front of you. Deal?”
I was excited for this prospect. It was finally the escape I had been looking for!
Fatherhood is about making deals with your daughter guaranteed to get her to practice excessively, get pretty good, and get a music degree in college.
4. Dad never missed a basketball game in which I played and, as the invention of video cameras evolved to being able to be used by the average person, he began recording them. He wasn’t a typical “athlete’s parent” – it’s not like we sat around watching game film or some such nonsense. He just liked having them so he could later make a collection of my greatest shots with background music (from one of Dad’s favorite movies, The Man From Snowy River, even though it’s a western set in Australia that reflects absolutely nothing about our lives). The thing about these videos, though, is that he could never stop being a fan. So most of my “greatest shots” were barely filmed and immediately followed by tons of shaking and beautiful shots of the ceiling since he couldn’t contain his excitement. Fatherhood is about sacrificing capturing the “perfect moment” and, instead, actually experiencing it.
5. My mom sent us out of Wal-Mart to go to Maurices to look for a pair of shorts when I was 13 or 14. I don’t know what took her so long to get there, but by the time she did, I had three shirts, two pairs of shorts, socks, and a totally cool jacket I had been wanting for-ev-er. She looked at him and he just shrugged. “She’s my daughter,” was his only explanation. Fatherhood is DEFINITELY about getting comfortable in the position of being wrapped around a finger.
6. I had been obsessively playing songs from “Wicked” for about three weeks when our family went to a football game in the Cities. When we got back to our house, I could not wait to play “Defying Gravity” for him. I wouldn’t shut up about it and I wanted him to hear that song more than any person on the planet. “Seriously, it’s the greatest song ever written,” I declared all the way up and all the way back. I have no idea if he believed me, but we took the time to sit in the living room and I blasted that sucker knowing that it would make him get all teary and obsessed right along with me. Fatherhood is taking your kids to see “Wicked” five times, dissecting it over the phone, and asking your daughter to accompany two singers for speech contest only to remove the most difficult part of the song that she had practiced an insane amount for “timing purposes.”
7. We drove to Maryland the year that “The Lion King” came out. My dad made a mixed tape of the soundtrack for the car and, to fill the last little bit of space on the tape, included three songs by Boyz II Men, my favorite group at the time. “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” really led nicely into “Motownphilly” We listened to that tape nonstop. I cannot imagine how desperately he wanted to throw that thing out the window. So it bears repeating: Fatherhood is about repetition.
8. When Dad met Slider for the first time, they curled up on the couch together and did not move for four hours. He may have been married to my mom for the past 41 years, but his soulmate is a four-legged furball and everyone knows it. Fatherhood is snow-blowing a path all the way around the house so that the grandpuppies have a place to go potty comfortably.
9. When Mom was gone for dinner, Dad would cook one of our favorite meals which was macaroni and cheese with cornbread. In addition, every day for all 13 years of school, Dad would pack me a lunch because I didn’t want to eat at school. For all four years of high school, he gave me 60 cents at the end of each band period for a juice to go with lunch. When he and I were the entire pit band for the musical my senior year, we would get pizza for rehearsals. He always brought a Squirt to my games because I found it refreshing after I was done playing. And when I had friends over (which was all the time), he would adopt them and feed us whatever we wanted. Fatherhood is making sure your children never go hungry and that they eat fun things rather than just kale or other such nonsense.
10. And finally, in so many ways that it could be its own post, my dad is one of the most feminist men I have ever met. He taught me that I could do whatever the hell I wanted to as a female… that I should be proud I didn’t get into National Honor Society my sophomore year for “ruffling feathers” because that meant I was doing it right… that I was gay, so what… that men definitely can cry at Hallmark commercials and “Toy Story 2” and it is perfectly fine… that the genders are all equal in their frustration with the Cubs and the Vikings… that my mom is to be supported in her endeavors even if it means she had to live in a dorm for a couple of months one summer while she finished her master’s degree… that I absolutely should write that editorial to the newspaper… that girls can find farting and burping funny, just don’t tell Mom… that there are plenty of female musicians making excellent records and here, I’ll buy them all for you if you will just stop listening to New Kids On The Block… and that he is proud of me for who I am, what I do, how I’ve chosen to live my life, and earlier today called Carrie perfect which is holy hell going to hung over my head for the next forever but whatever.
Fatherhood is about making your daughter feel like she rocks at life.
So Happy Father’s Day to the guy who brings popcorn, peanuts, and Cracker Jacks every year for Opening Day. Rock on, Daddy-O.