Fathers Day 2011

When I was a kid I remember my dad doing many things with me.  We played boardgames, played basketball in the driveway, built a treehouse and worked together every Saturday.  I recall his lectures about men needing to do things that aren’t always fun.  I remember waking up each morning to find him sitting in the brown chair, ready for the day, coffee in hand and reading his bible.  Every day.  I remember in high school seeing him at each of my cross country meets and track meets, sometimes shouting at me to run harder.  The funny thing about all those memories is that I don’t ever recall thinking what a great dad he was. He was simply my dad. He was there.  He was present.  Shoot, at times he was downright annoying.  He was just my dad. Fast forward a few decades.  I find my memories of my dad are the same, yet different.  Now, I have memories of my son being born, and feeling overwhelmed with love for him, my tears dripping on his blankets in a quiet hospital room all the while recalling my own dad and realizing that he must have loved me this much.  My memories of my son’s first bike rides without training wheels also had thoughts of my own dad running behind me holding my seat, yelling for me to “pedal Joel, Pedal!” A few years ago I was doing some home improvement projects.  My son Finn was four at the time and he was right there with me every step of the way with his own tool belt on.  At one point, eager kiddo that he is, he wanted to help so bad that he reached down and squeezed the caulk-gun for all his might.  Helping dad.  His help resulted in a big glop of caulk smearing all over the floor and his dad, me, yelling at him.  “Finn!  Agh!  Don’t DO that!”  That’s when the flood happened.  A flood of memories spilled into my mind of my dad saying similar comments to me.  My dad following up those comments with apologies.  My dad saying to me, “Joel, I want you to be a better man than me someday.”  I didn’t pay much attention to him saying stuff like that then.  But, wow.  I am listening now.  With all those memories flooding in, I also saw my son shrink away, tears in his eyes, and a timid yet resolute voice tell me that he wasn’t gonna help me anymore if I was going to yell at him.  I teared up with him, stopped the work and held him in my arms.  Like my dad, I apologized to him, told him I don’t like getting yelled at either and promised him I would try real hard not to yell at him again.  My son bounced back immediately and wanted to work the saw, to which I gently told him, “nice try, kiddo.”  I didn’t bounce back so quickly. My memories of my dad are many.  He wasn’t perfect, he wasn’t always cool.  (Seriously.  He wore black dress socks with his running shoes!)  Yet even though I didn’t realize it at the time, he was an amazing dad.  He was there.  He was real.  My dad taught me the value of hard work.  He taught me the value of apologies.  He taught me that being present is far more important than being perfect.  And now that I’m a dad, I’m learning that he loved me so much more than I ever realized.  I hope to teach my son the same things.  I hope he remembers one day me saying to him, “Finn, I want you to be a better man than me someday.” Dad, I love you.  Thanks for all those cross country meets and track meets.  Thanks for helping make me who I am.  And thanks for teaching me how bad black socks look with running shoes.