Wait, What? Who Let Me Be A Father?

And like that — poof — I’m a father.

Didn’t have to fill out a form. Didn’t have to get a license. Didn’t have to kill a wild boar with my spear and eat its still-beating heart. No test. No spirit quest. No nothing.

Just a paroxysm of delight — a darling dalliance with my beautiful wife — and now we’ve a little drunken homeless man in our life that we call “Baby Ben.”

Holy shit.

In italics, this time: holy shit.

The strange thing is, for the last several years now, Father’s Day has been something of a maudlin day for me. My father passed a few years ago, as you may know, and so when this day rolls around it’s about a day of conspicuous absence, a day where the void of exclusion is felt most keenly. Hey! Not going to send him a card. Not going to call him. Not going out to dinner with him. Not sharing a glass of blackberry brandy.

In that canyon, a swirling stinging sirocco of never-gonna-happen-agains.

Ah, but.

Here, I am, in a different role. Now I’ve got a child — even moreso, a son — of my own. On the one hand, therein lies further cause for sadness here today: Ben has one grandfather now, an awesome guy, a guy who will handily own the job and embrace it the way a bear embraces a falling tree full of honey, but he’s down one grandfather. He’ll never meet my Dad. And damn, my Dad would’ve been a bitchin’ grandfather. He was a good father, but we didn’t always have the best relationship — but he’d have been a great grand-dad (or Pop-Pop or Grampa or whatever the hell he would’ve been called). That’s even sadder, right? Here’s my son and he’ll never have my Dad to show him how to fish or shoot cans off a fence-rail or look for deer or find weird rusted treasures at creepy flea markets nationwide. In that way, the void just yawned wider: the canyon walls crumbling and stretching to accommodate a deeper oblivion.

But then, on the other side, there I am. The kid has a father. (Uh, me, in case you haven’t been paying attention. Or the mailman, if I haven’t been paying attention.) And my Dad’s not here to show him how to fish or shoot cans or any of that, but I am. And through me, those things flip and switch from never-gonna-happen-again to gonna-happen-again-someday. My father’s ghost, his callused hands (and missing pinky finger), maybe getting a second life through me. It won’t be the same, of course — like I’ve said before, we’re all just blurry, blotchy fascimiles of those who came before us, each generation thinner and cut with more water than the last — but it’s something. And I’ll bring new things to the table, too, and in that the weird goofy DNA of fatherhood keeps on going.

Point is, I miss my Dad, but I’ll bring him back through the stories I can tell to my son and through the things I can teach and the adventures we can have.

It’s not everything, but it’s something, and something is better than nothing.

Miss you, Dad. Love you, Dad. Hope you can pause in your wild romp across the Happy Hunting Grounds and look down upon your grand-son and maybe give him a wink and a waggle of your ruined pinky.

Happy Father’s Day, everybody else.

(Sidenote: that photo above is from an early pheasant hunting trip when I was a kid. That’s my gawky, beardless self there second in from the left, and my father the one with the NRA hat. I may be a bespectacled intellectual moderate, but you can be damn sure my son’s going to have a fishing rod, a knife, and a rifle if he wants it. And he’ll learn to use and respect each of those in kind, just as I had done. I won’t make him hunt, but if he wants to, we can do that. Hell, you’ll note that I went just last year to bag more pheasants in honor of the old man. Though, I just can’t hunt deer.)

(Second sidenote: some folks think that B-Dub looks like me, and that might be true. Heck, he even does my one cocked eyebrow look — a dubious, incredulous face. But a lot of the time I see my father’s face in there, too. Which is at times spooky, but at all times, heartening.)

19 comments

  • Well, you made me cry. Good job. (Also not a very hard one.)

    Happy Father’s day on your first one to many, many more. Beautiful thought too.

  • I wanted to share this with you via Twitter but it was too long for that. Last night I was putting Vivian to bed, she’s 2.5. Usually I read her a story, though lately she’s taken a liking to this stupid Thomas the Tank Engine catalog and wants to just go through and name the engines and ooh and ahh at the track sets and say “wow look at that” and stuff. This puts me to sleep, so I started closing my eyes, lying there on the bed with her. She gave me a stuffed animal and told me to lay down, so I said “okay, read me a story.”

    She took that catalog and proceeded to go “once upon a time,” then told me some stuff in the middle (something like Daddy and Thomas played and had fun), and then said “The End.” I was blown away, and sat up and looked at her and told her how happy I was that she’d just told me a (completely made up on the spot) story. Beginning, middle, and end. (And we don’t even do any “once upon a time” stories, no idea where she got that from…)

    And she looks at me and says, “don’t cry daddy.” :-)

    I haven’t been doing this much longer than you, but I think there’s definitely times like this that make everything that has to be endured worth it. And more than worth it.

  • Happy Father’s Day… I hope it is the 1st of many many years of celebration! Oh and since you always make me laugh, I forgive you for making me tear up this morning ; ) Have a good one Chuck…

  • Happy First Father’s Day.

    I hope you all have a wonderful time today. And not too many years from now you might be lying in bed when tiny feet run in, and a voice stage-whispers, “HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!”

    For now just smooch on your wee one.

    Not that wee one.

    Far as I know you don’t practice yoga.

  • Beautiful tribute. I’d say B-dub has a wonderful future waiting for him. Savor every moment, even those when you don’t ‘ always have the best relationship’ because it makes us who we are, and gives us a point of connection with that past we hold dear.

  • I love this. Especially this: “…like I’ve said before, we’re all just blurry, blotchy fascimiles of those who came before us, each generation thinner and cut with more water than the last — but it’s something. And I’ll bring new things to the table, too, and in that the weird goofy DNA of fatherhood keeps on going.”

    Nice!

  • I never met my paternal grandfather, either, but he’s larger than life to me through the stories my dad told me. I wish I could remember them all and had written them down. Maybe hypnotism would work?
    I wrote a…thing. It was the start of a story about my dad’s life. For those of you (that would be all of you here) that think I only write porn or humor or both, here’s a look at my father’s life when he was a boy, in the 1940s. Think of it as a present, if you wanted emotional baggage.

    A Father’s Day Tribute of Sorts

  • Bless you, sir.

    I lost my Dad in 09, and I felt the same sort of “exploring the space where a tooth used to be” feeling yesterday, too.

    Hug Little Ben for me.

    Michael

  • Really nice imagery, and a few funny lines too. It made me think of my own Dad, who’s gone these past five years. I think he would’ve gotten along well with yours.

  • I did not have a good relationship with my dad when I was growing up.

    Now that I’m grown up and have my head on straighter, I wish I could create one.

    Unfortunately, getting my head on straight meant my mom thinking it had twisted right off, and since she changes his mind like she changes her socks, I won’t be able to create that relationship while she’s alive.

    Barring incident, it’s a given that she’ll outlive him.

    This breaks my heart.

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