Saturday, June 17, 2006

A Tribute to Fathers

Tomorrow will be my children's first Father's Day without their Dad. It will be my 20th without mine. I can't truly tell them that this gaping hole in life's fabric gets easier. Perhaps the loss grows less sharp and more familiar with time. But Fathers Day remains, for me, a melancholy day.

In cleaning out some files recently, I happened across this essay I wrote one Fathers Day a few years ago. It's printed below, for my kids, Kristine and Matt, in honor of their very special Dad, Pete:

Just what do fathers do, anyway?

They leave the toilet seat up, the car windows down, the screen door open and the conversation closed. They leave socks on the floor and crumbs on the cutting board. They sit sentry-like in front of TV sets, with channel changers clutched in a death grip, coming to sudden and startling life only when the home team scores. A father can drink beer, eat chips, build sandwiches, and barbeque burgers, all without the aid of a single napkin. No wonder the dog likes him best and follows his every move with adoring eyes.

A father usually comes in handy for a game of catch, help with homework, driving lessons, and especially permission to do something mother would never allow. Fathers absolutely excel at taking the hit when Mom arrives home from the mall to find her bedspread tacked to the ceiling to make a tent. The kids scurry for cover and leave Dad to negotiate the peace process. The best part of these adventures is that Dad never mentions (or maybe he just forgets) that it was the kids' idea.

Most fathers make you feel pretty safe. They see to it that loose bike chains get tightened and soft tires get inflated. They like to check the oil in the car and lock all the doors at night. If you're ever in a jam of any sort, it's a pretty good bet that your father is a quick phone call away. And the bigger the jam, the faster Dad will arrive.

Sometimes kids may not feel they know Dad as well as Mom. But he knows you. If you ever tried selling him any variation of the "flat tire" story when you came home past curfew, you understand.

Fathers aren't usually as expressive as mothers are to their kids. Be that as it may, kids of all ages should still talk to, ask questions, and seek advice from Dad. There's a lot of layers to the guy, even if he doesn't say or seem to do much. So talk to him now. Because I promise you, the day will come when you'll want to talk to him, but he'll be gone.

Believe me. I know.