(originally posted on the DadPad blog)
My birth father wasn’t in my home growing up, or at least not for very long. I don’t remember living with him. My parents divorced when I was 3 and, therefore, I don’t recall ever waking up and walking over to my dad while he lived in our home. Yet, unlike many with a very similar tale, my dad was in town and did make the effort to see me on a regular basis as I grew up.
My earliest memories of my dad are of him arriving to my house on a Sunday morning. He and my mom had an unusually amicable relationship (it wasn’t unusual for me as a child since it was all I knew but, obviously, I have come to find out that it was rare). After a few minutes of “chat”, we would leave. Most of the time we would stop by a place to pick up lunch and then it was off to his apartment.
When I was 10, my dad purchased his first set of Minnesota Viking season tickets. I remember sitting in old Memorial Stadium freezing my yammers off but loving every minute of it. I learned to love football through my dad. We still spend a lot of time criticizing the Vikings each season :).
During the summer of my 13th year, we took our first of many summer vacations. We drove up to the lakeshore city of Duluth, located on the banks of Lake Superior (Lake Gitchegoomy for you Gordon Lightfoot fans). I don’t recall anything that transpired that weekend but I remember it was with my dad. The trips got more extensive (and expensive for him) as I got older. Road treks included jaunts to Seattle, Los Angeles, the Bay area (SF and Oakland), Cleveland (yes, that Cleveland), and a pre-bicentennial trip to Boston, New York, Washington DC and Philadelphia. There were blown tires, overheated radiators, lost contacts in a pool, bumpers ripped off by exposed fence posts and other mishaps. Those only served to make the trips more memorable.
Despite all of the good memories of times with my dad, latent longings began to develop inside. Later in life, I realized how much of my life my dad missed. I never recall him attending a baseball game. When I dated I missed having him readily available to counsel me about things to avoid (or look forward to ;). I couldn’t sit down and just tell him about my day. As I contemplated college and career, he provided no input. Feelings of a missed childhood filled my thoughts and I was sad.
During these years, my mom remarried. My stepfather was a provider for the home but we were never close. He wasn’t a bad man, just not a great father. They divorced after 15 yrs of marriage and I have seldom seen him since. We are friendly and cordial when we meet. But, my “dad” hole was never filled by him.
Now, as a nearly 50 year old father of three nearly grown children I look back on time with my dad with mixed feelings. On the one hand, I have some very fond memories of those times together in his apartment, eating strange foods that I still have an affinity for, bonding through football and our trips. Yet on the other hand I wonder what it would have been like had he been more “fatherly” in my life. Might I have persevered through some personal challenges and decision making around a broadcasting career instead of wilting and giving up? Would I have had a healthier view of dating and relationships if he had spent more time teaching and coaching me in that arena? I’ll never really know the answers to these questions.
And, maybe it’s not really relevant. I’ve moved on and love my dad for who he is. There’s no resentment, only wonder and some sadness. His childhood, which was a mystery to me until recently, was not something to be emulated either. Fathering for him had to be a challenge since he missed a father who was active in his life.
So, for this Father’s day, I just want to say, “thank you, dad”. Thank you for introducing me to football and sports. Thank you for the great road trips we took which gave me a love for the road and travel. Thank you for wanting to spend time with me and staying close so that we could be together weekly. Thank you, dad, for loving me and caring for me and loving my family. Happy Father’s day, dad.