As I woke up this Father’s day, I thought of two things my father said to me. One profound. The other not so much.
I was 19. We were sitting on the back porch that he built one summer several years before (in almost 47 years I have built nothing). He told me that his job as a father was done, and he wanted to be my friend. Those words have never left me, but their meaning has changed over time.
As he spoke them, I felt I had become a man, and he was merely acknowledging my manhood.
As a father of three 19 to 21 year olds, I have come to think that he spoke those words less in the literal, and more in the manner of redefining our relationship and allowing it to grow again.
Father’s have a good run of being everything to their children…provider, protector, teacher, coach and hero. It doesn’t last forever.
Education and outside influence inform and influence our children for better and worse, and time exposes our unfulfilled promises and personal vices removing our once omnipotent hero powers.
Children need that growth and independence to find themselves in the world. They will stumble, stagger and fall down in much the same way they learned to walk. In doing so, father’s in their eyes “don’t get it” or are even to blame for every setback.
Parents struggle coming to grips with this lack of relevance and resentment, questioning the enormity of sacrifice in raising a child.
I have come to believe that 27 or 28 years ago, my father didn’t finish his job, but reached out to me to bridge the gulf of teenage angst and parental anxiety to connect again.
I will be 47 next week, and I still call my dad when something breaks, when I see a great movie or game, when my own kids do something special, and most importantly when I can’t speak to anyone else. He is always there, and he is still my father.
I also thought of the time back in high school shortly after I started drinking. I had budwieser beer the night before and was sitting in the basement watching TV by myself and farting. My dad opened the door and his face immediately shriveled.
He looked at me with total disgust and asked, “Did you shit your freaking pants?”