As a young child, as early as 7 years old, I yearned for my childhood to portray the quintessential stereotype of a 1950’s style household: My father being my family’s sole source of income, home cooked meals, fresh baked cookies, throwing the football in plaid shirts, and church every Sunday. Although, my life was unequivocally opposed to this idea, I continued to cling tightly, believing that if it were representative of this fantasy, my problems would be solved. But alas, this fantasy was just that, a fantasy.
At that age, most of my problems were self-induced. (Actually, most of my problems are still, currently, self-induced, but I’ll disregard my current parallels at the moment.) I worried about silly things, such as, fretting about my next hair cut appointment, worrying if I’ll pass my next spelling test, or stressing if my younger brother’s birthday is next in line. All those problems, with the exception of cutting my hair, I view as fairly typical behavior. No child wants their siblings to get gifts, and a lot of people are horrible spellers. However, what I worried about the most was money.
For no accurate reason I was petrified that my family would become “poor”, and I’m using the definition of “poor” very loosely. I was an observant child, so this is where it probably stemmed from. When my parents would argue, which I believed to be a healthy (normal) amount, I would close myself in my room and listen to every word. Even to this day, I physically hurt when I hear my parents disagreeing. After, personally, experiencing divorce, I don’t think I would have made it out alive if my parents decided to separate. I’m too emotional. Like every other couple in this world, their arguments typically started with financial issues. But again, the word “poor” is the inappropriate usage of what we experienced. We experienced a nice case of: your family of five, needs to cook at home,more, instead of dining out. A lot of people fall into this category.
Here I go again explaining too much of my childhood before I get to the original point of my post: my favorite “dad time”. Don’t blame me. When one addresses their childhood, it’s like biting into an apple. After the first bite, you have to continue at a rapid pace, before it gets stale. At least that’s how it is for me. I want you to know the way I was, which directly created the experiences that were most influential for me.
Apples aside, I was a worrisome, quiet and creative kid, with a very active imagination. I wanted to throw footballs and grow up in a 1950’s household. Instead, I was dyslexic, overweight and painfully shy. I did, however, settle for religiously watching I love Lucy, to feed my 50’s additions. I don’t remember throwing the football with my dad. Actually, I don’t have a lot of memories with my father. I knew he loved me very much, but I always felt an unspoken disconnect. I did spend a lot of time deer hunting with him, which I tried to enjoy, but it always felt foreign to me. Fixing and building things didn’t come naturally to me, which is basically the definition of my father. However, to my two brothers, it did. I was an outsider, at least in my own mind.
One thing that did set me apart, was this wonderful little condition called epilepsy. I couldn’t feel envious that my brothers could seize better than I could, although I’m sure they tried, so I considered it an overall win. With said epilepsy, I was required to get blood drawn every month or so, which required me to wake up before school and go to local hospital. I remember getting enthralled with excitement at the opportunity to have alone time with my father, even if it meant getting poked with a needle. The largest perk was our outing after we left the hospital: McDonald’s. Did I mention I was husky? I was. But it wasn’t about the breakfast meal I would devour, it was about my father. I don’t remember talking much, but I remember feeling so connected with him. I didn’t feel like I had to be more masculine or good at hunting, I was just myself. One hundred percent, me.
Reflecting back over my childhood, I can list countless accounts of how great my father was, and continues to be. But my absolute favorite memories are when we sat in McDonald’s. Me, a chubby adolescent, with a band-aid holding a cotton ball over my recent puncture wound, and my strong, silent father, probably wearing black jeans and cowboy boots, which he just recently exchanged for a pair of slacks and dress shoes.
As mentioned, I could write novels on his unnoticed, heroic, acts, but that is the one that I love most.