Our oldest son recently called home. He’s been in Japan for several years teaching English and has met a very nice young Japanese lady (we met her last Christmas) and they’re contemplating marriage. During our phone call, he got quiet for a moment and then asked what being a dad was like. I stumbled and stammered around that one for a bit, but managed to reel off a few cliches.
After he’d hung up, though, I had some time to think and here are a few things I came up with. I’ll mail him this column when it comes out. He’ll be embarrassed that I mentioned him but, hey, what are dads for? Anyway, here are a few things I plan to pass on to him. I thought you might enjoy reading them too.
To my mind, a "Dad" is:
- The individual in the delivery room who, upon finding that the anesthesiologist had attended LSU, spent most of his time talking about the upcoming football season and had to be reminded by your mother that other, more pressing events, should be occupying his attention.
- The individual who, during your infant years, fought off repeated gangrene attacks caused by ramming an uncountable number of safety pins into his clumsy fingers while trying to diaper your wiggling butt.
- The individual who, when you were very young and Mom heard strange noises at night, went downstairs to see what was there, stepped on the metal jacks you’d left on the floor, hopped around on one foot until that foot found the other jacks, came back upstairs and, when asked what all the commotion was, muttered: "Nothing. Just go back to sleep."
- The individual who, after every parade, carried you on his shoulder all the way back to the car because you were too tired to walk. This while also carrying assorted coolers, articles of clothing, and folding chairs.
- The individual who agreed to your request to take the training wheels off of your bike and then ran the equivalent of several marathons to make sure you weren't injured when you fell and, then, repeated the process when you asked for another push.
- The individual who snuck the dead (goldfish, hamsters, gerbils, lizards, etc.) out of the house, buried, and then replaced them before you noticed their demise.
- The individual who once had to explain to a very upset Mom that your bloody nose and copious tears were the result of trying to show you the curveball he once had back in high school.
- The individual who, without undue comment, sharpened the lawnmower blade every time it hit a tool that you'd left in the yard after building your latest project.
- The individual who patiently filled in and re-seeded all of the holes you’d dug into the lawn while looking for buried treasure.
- The individual who had to provide massive amounts of cash to certain insurance companies once you become old enough to drive.
- The individual who endlessly told you that, when he was your age, he’d already been earning his own money for at least umpteen years.
- The individual who rolled out of bed at night when you ran out of gas even though you'd been told repeatedly that when the gas gauge read "E," it was a reliable augury of all things automotive coming to a stop.
- The individual who laid in bed and pretended to be asleep until he heard you return home safely.
- The individual who repetitively explained to you that calling home if you were going to be late was not an abridgment of the Bill of Rights.
- The individual who laughed, despite the sting, at your comments on how "fat" and out of shape he'd gotten and then remembered when he said the same thing to his dad.
- The individual who explained to male suitors (if he had daughters) that there may, in fact, be certain events that rightly happen after midnight, but that bringing his daughter home at such an hour was, "by God," not one of them and that such an act was, much more pertinently, fraught with peril.
The individual who sat in the garage, after you'd grown and left, and went through all of the photo albums, fingered all of the gloves, handled all of the toys, and quietly wished he could do it all over again.
I’m telling him this because, should he marry and have children, he’ll likely go through it too.