Thirty-seven years ago, my old man held me in his arms for the first time.
Gone was his Triumph motorcycle and gold spray-painted war helmet. He’d sold them because he was starting a family and as a dad, perhaps some of the wilder times were behind him. His long bangs, bell-bottoms and tight t-shirts were the last remnants to go as he watched his bachelorhood disappear below the horizon and into the sunset behind him.
He embraced his new lifestyle and went on to have three boys of his own.
He committed to being a dad, for better or for worse, and now that I’m older, I sometimes look back and laugh, thinking that he got a good dose of both.
He bathed us and read stories before bedtime as my mom worked the night shift at the hospital. He helped us with our math homework and proofread our book reports. He gave me haircuts in the driveway, taught me how to catch a fly ball and shoot a coffee can off a fencepost with my BB gun.
He put us to work in the yard on Saturdays, male bonding at its finest. He’d cut the grass, I’d pull it into piles and my brothers would load it onto the back of a rake as I carried it into the woods to our clippings pile. Afterwards we’d eat reheated pizza and potato chips from the Friday night before (that was our tradition) and he’d fall asleep with the television remote control slide-box (it had a cord!) on his chest, forcing us to watch golf as me and my brothers drove Matchbox cars up and down his chest and legs.
He’d show up at baseball practice in his work truck after a long day of laying bricks in the heat – splitting his time between fields as all three of us sharpened our skills. He showed us how to tie and bait a hook and after some practice casting in the yard, he took us fishing.
But with the all the good times you experience as a father, you can always count on a few bad.
I once hooked him in the head while casting for bass on our Uncle John’s pond. My brother backed down the driveway in a hurry one night and slammed into his truck (with boat attached), causing him to miss a huge weekend fishing trip. In college, I borrowed all of his power tools (without asking) for a few weeks. How was I to know that my apartment would burn to the ground, turning his precious collection to ash? And I still don’t remember which one of us decided it would be a genius idea to test a fire extinguisher in the upstairs hallway. Sorry, dad.
Now, he’s a ‘Pop-Pop’ and I have kids of my own.
Even though my story isn’t fully written yet, as a full-time stay-at-home dad for two toddlers, I’ve had no shortage of the good and the bad.
I’ve had the life-altering experience of holding a newborn in my arms and hearing them cry for the first time.
I’ve watched Ava and Charlie crawl and then walk, say their first words and cut their first teeth. I’ve soothed them to sleep and been on the receiving end of more than one knee-buckling ‘I love you’. I’ve watched them draw, build and create… and develop their own little personalities. Their laughter, silliness and affection are my weekly paycheck.
However, much like my dad and many dads before me, I’ve also had my share of less flattering moments.
I’ve been peed on, pooped on and combed vomit from my hair. I’ve re-entered the living room to discover highlighter tattooing my sons face and nail polish on the walls. I’ve quelled tantrums in the restaurant and bought desserts for the diners that had food thrown at their eyes. I’ve bought more drinks for passengers on the red-eye flight from LA to Philly then I care to count.
I survived a phase where Ava head-butted everything in sight… drywall and floors, until her entire forehead was black and blue. And now my son insists on decimating anyone in his vicinity with a set of drumsticks he received for his birthday.
But as of this moment, I’m dealing with a new threat – my daughter pointing her finger at me, barking orders (not allowed) and sending her younger brother to a time-out.
But this is all in a days work, right?
If I don’t do another thing in my lifetime, I’ll be satisfied. I love ‘this’ more than anything in the world.
After consulting my old man, being a dad is the best thing we’ve ever done.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A sincere ‘Happy Father’s Day’ to all the dads out there who have found the love and humor that come along with being a dad. If you’re still looking for a gift for the old man, it’s not too late to give him some laughs (paperback, Kindle, Nook or audiobook) – at my expense!