There is a distinct difference between a father and a man and it is something I have thought about more than once.
I sit here at the tail end of another Father’s Day smiling as I think about how lucky I am and feeling a bit crazed because though we have come so far there is still so much farther to go.
So I look for hard proof of the journey up to this point and come across a Father’s Day post I wrote five years ago that gives me a bittersweet feeling but still pushes a big smile across my face.
He Taught Me How To Be A Father
I wrote that letter to my dad in June of 2011 in the midst of the biggest personal storm I had ever been in.
The financial crisis of 2008 had been devastating to us. I lost my job and went balls-to-the-wall to find a new one but couldn’t get anything full time.
I applied to unload trucks, work in warehouses and did everything you could and should do to find a full-time gig but I couldn’t make it happen.
So I was forced to cobble together a series of part-time jobs and a mix of freelance work but it wasn’t enough to prevent things from going from bad to worse.
It didn’t take long for me to go from being a proud homeowner, a father who had been the sole provider for almost a decade to just another guy without a job.
We pulled the kids from private school, repeatedly tightened our belts and begged the bank to modify our loan.
But it didn’t matter because they never said yes or no so I sold the house because it was better to get something for it.
Anyway, things got pretty ugly but then they got better because my father taught me never to quit and to always keep my head up and five years later I sit here knowing he was right.
Same As It Ever Was
As I sit here reading that post I know I am not the man I once was because you can’t go through what I did without being changed by it.
Some of those changes are good things and some, well time will tell.
But before we move on to my comparison I need to share an excerpt from that earlier post.
So here I sit at the computer with my eyes closed, headphones filling my ears with music and a parade of images floating through my mind’s eye. I see you as you were when I was in grade school. A full head of hair, tall and so very strong. I remember what it was like to wrestle with you. I remember throwing my ten year-old self at you with all I had and how easily you handled me. I remember being frustrated by it. At school I was always one of the strongest boys but it never mattered because you were always stronger.
I remember how my sisters would fight with me and how sometimes they would magically start crying when you showed up. Seconds before they were yelling at me and now they were sobbing and that glare would find me. I remember trying not to wilt under it. I remember protesting my innocence and the lectures. I remember you telling me that it was my job to protect them and I did.
Ask them and they’ll tell you stories about how I chased away the boys. They’ll tell you that I had too much fun running them off and they are right. I am a big brother, it is what we do.
Now your grandson yells about how unfair it is that his little sister doesn’t start crying until I show up and sometimes I fight not to smile. You knew back then what they were doing just as I know now.
Father’s Day Is Always Better Than Mother’s Day
As a kid there was never any difference between the days for me. I have good parents and I always enjoyed having everyone gather at my parent’s house for family celebrations.
But they haven’t been as much fun as a father because Mother’s Day almost always requires a ton of work and all sorts of juggling.
Don’t mistake that to mean I don’t think that moms should be celebrated because they should but in this case it is complicated.
The mothers go crazy trying to make sure that their mothers are properly celebrated and taken care of.
And the grandmothers go nuts trying to make sure their celebrations involve all of their children but the thing is, we are all scattered around the country and the city.
It is virtually impossible to find time that works for everyone, let a place that will hold us all.
So we go through this crazy game each year where one or more say something like “Whatever you decide is fine” and we all know that fine is code for “you are screwed if you do that.”
It is not accurate to say that someone always gets pissed off or feels less than appreciated but it has happened more than once.
And sometimes it hasn’t mattered what I have done to try and head this off. Hasn’t mattered how hard I tried to plan ahead, it just didn’t work.
I find that frustrating.
It is not like that with Father’s Day.
The grandfathers and I just want to hang out with family and enjoy. I am perfectly happy to have simple day and a nice meal.
The funny thing is I mentioned this to my father and he laughed, “what makes you think it was any different for me.”
Guess dad is still a step ahead of me.