When the "I am emotionally indestructible" body armor comes off every once in a while (such as now), you can probably get me to admit that little things such as Father's Day are meaningful. Hearing from all three daughters (and having dinner & quality time with one) and receiving a card from my stepsons was very nice, even if today was something of a whirlwind of activity. For me though, fast-paced days are probably the best days I can have, if for no other reason than they serve the invaluable purpose of getting me out repetitive cycles of thinking about things and towards simply just living things.
Speaking of Father's Day, I was talking to my youngest daughter about being a father, and she told me about someone she knew who was afraid to be a father, mostly because this young man didn't have a good role model growing up. I could relate to that on one level, and one of my brothers chose to not be a father for pretty much the same reason. However, I always took the opposite approach: My father was a tremendous asset to me as a parent for one simple reason: He shows me what not to do. Looking back now over a span of something like 50 years, I can only recall now a few interactions with my father...
...that time he took me to a bar on Adams Avenue in Scranton. I can still smell the beer, cigarette smoke and urine hanging over the place like some death cloud.
...that one time I remember him being in our house on Pine Street. I didn't appear to end well.
...the time he gave me a bottle of shampoo as a gift.
...the few times I (and my brothers) would meet him in some flop hotel where he would dole out $75 to each of us.
...the times when I would take my mother to visit him in the veteran's home in Dundee, New York.
Not exactly Leave It To Beaver kind of stuff. Still though, in life, we are given a set of circumstances, and what we choose to do with those circumstances defines who we are as human beings. I never occurred to me to not be a father myself because of how I was raised. I did, from time to time, worry that I didn't exactly know how to be a father, but along the way I met a few good men (such as my ex-wife's late father) who provided me with good examples to follow. When I didn't know what to do I simply did my best, hoping that positive intent would trump flawed execution.
Back at the present day, I continue to do my best as a father, which means that I continue to probably make plenty of mistakes, all be it well-intentioned ones. While that sounds like something of a downer, I can say the following with complete certainty: In a life where showing up is half the battle, I've already succeeded in learning from my own father, as I did, in fact, actually show up.
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