Sunday, June 20, 2010

Just a few words about Dad and myself, this Father’s Day

This morning I was sitting here sifting through old photos of my dad, and wondering whether I should write a Father's Day blog or something else entirely (or perhaps nothing at all as it's been a pretty uneventful summer) when I stumbled across this picture. It wasn't in my "Dad" collection, but in a file marked "assorted" and it took me a moment to remember why. 

This was my fourteenth birthday (my dad would've been 38 here) and while I thought he looked his typical handsome self, for years I was embarrassed by this photo.  I was going through a "chunky" phase at the time, and I believe those were Sears 'Husky Jeans' I was wearing.  I can still remember seeing this picture shortly after it was taken and looking at my then-life of too much junk food and too much tv and too many comic books, and wondering if my dad was disappointed in me. 

I didn't share his love for music or western books or football;  I'd spend hours in my room, caught up in my own world of starships, monster magazines and Batman.  I always imagined he'd be happier if I had a dried snake or rock collection, or traded baseball cards or built model cars instead of models of Frankenstein & Star Trek.  I had an older brother who was considered an official "genius" and was pretty much excused from the rigors of American boyhood, and a younger brother who spent his childhood reliving "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (complete with straw hat & fishing pole, darn it).  I looked at myself & really did sympathize for my old man.

Dad was too cool even in his Navy days; in the 1950s he served as a radar operator on the real USS Enterprise, a Navy battleship

Of course as the years went by, I began to understand that his quiet moods & 'staring right thru me' wasn't a disappointment in who I was, but just a man caught up in his own problems and worries of feeding his family, making ends meet, getting older, and trying to keep my mom happy while battling his own personal demons.  I wasn't the only one back then with a lot on my plate, so to speak.

Dad & five of his six kids at Ryerson Park, 1972 (Donda in the lower left, Shawn, me, Steve & Duke); Dad had just turned 35 years old

There is so much more I could say here about the man, other than I love and miss him.  I didn't even touch on his music career (that's one of his songs playing while you're reading this).  I guess what's important to me this Father's Day is remembering that he was always there.  As a kid I absolutely idolized him, tolerated him in my twenties, and loved him as a somewhat flawed but always good man in my thirties.  And that's what is most important, because until his passing in 2001, he was always a part of my life.  He still is.
Well, this may seem like a trivial thing but it is something I'll always treasure.  The night of my birthday in that top picture, Mom & Dad took me shopping in Washington PA for my present.  I was allowed to pick out anything up to a certain dollar amount.  I remember going down the hobby aisle & my dad picking up a model of Mister Spock firing on alien lizards and saying "Doug what about this one?" and my mom saying "Oh Don, that was one of his Christmas gifts from last year!"  but the fact was, he knew what was important to me.  And  that was enough.

Happy Father's Day, Dad
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