Until recently, I viewed Father’s Day as a kind of afterthought. The pack of gum in the express line of holidays. Nice to have, sure, but not necessary.
Fathers throughout time have been trying to figure out—spent lifetimes trying to figure out—whether they are necessary.
The rub of being a father is this answer only comes when it’s nearly too late. Realizing then, whether you were necessary or not, was not up to you.
Appreciation for a father is a strange and unattainable thing. There are fathers right now, waking up this Sunday morning, this “day for them” who are multi- multi-millionaires. Steerers of the digital barges that make our screens light up our faces. Robber barons of finance. Artists that are the hit of the Tribeca brick- and bare-beam cocktail circuit. Authors whose prose is so familiar sounding, it couldn’t have possibly been created just now, but it was. Men who build homes with their bare hands, who can navigate a turn on a track at four gs in incredible traffic with not a dent or scratch on the million-dollar chassis to show. Giants behind the dais who give speeches so powerful the gurgling in the audience’s stomach, of inspiration, of innovation, of…lunch, washes over him in a glorious spring rain of applause.
And yet these same men woke up this particular Sunday morning to hear the low voices and the high-pitched screams, the clank of kitchen dishes and the expectoration of pans and the soon-to-be-sloshed-upon counter tops, the sounds of their children.
And they all think the same thing: I am doing it wrong.
That is the real conceit of Father’s Day. Three hundred and sixty four days a year, fathers forgot the diaper bag, or brought the wrong drink or dragged a blanket halfway across the restaurant floor and then shoved it toward the baby’s mouth. The child’s hand wasn’t held across the street and the man in charge turned away at the concessions only to look up and see his shadow moseying halfway down the concourse after the cotton candy man—his new father.
The bike didn’t get put together on time or in a way where the back wheel didn’t wobble like a shopping cart. The crib still has two nails like stalagmite vampire teeth poking from underneath the mattress. Really not sure if the car seat was really ever installed right because the only way to be truly sure isn’t the way anyone would ever want to find out. An attempt to give momma a break by going out and getting ice cream backfired after seeing what the ice cream led to once the child was passed back.
Father’s Day, a single-day reminder of the previous year of shortcomings. And a moment to pause. To bring this spinning teacup to rest. To realize every time a breath expels from the nostrils of that tiny little shooting star you are indeed, responsible. Every begrudged hug to every moment taken for granted by trying so hard to get to the next one on time—it is the pink-black dust of pencil eraser across the blank sheet of time.
And you are there, and so is this, person. This that you’re leaving behind. This hope against the house odds that the same mistakes won’t be made twice, or at least they may possess the innovation to make the same mistakes look different. That would be enough for you, you decide.
Realizing all your days and all those dreams, they’re actually out of your hands and into the tiny ones that once fit so snugly in yours.
All the unsaid million tiny goofs you’ve made, they add up to something that becomes another thing entirely: A living, churning, and hopefully, caring embodiment of you. What was once the chance to start fresh, to crease back the notebook and wipe the invisible dust mites from the canvas and breathe in and stare deeply into those eyes you want so badly to stare you back with a glimpse of understanding…or at least recognition, is now an actual person.
Somebody who can acknowledge you are the one they call Dad.
And that, more than anything in this world, is necessary.
— For my father, Craig, who passed away January 15, 2014, and my son, Beau, who was born 100 days after that.