Sunday, June 19, 2016

Why Father's Day always makes me blue (from '11)

I’m not sure why Father’s Day always makes me blue.
A writer’s website asked me to compose a short piece about Father’s Day. I know I’m destined to disappoint them.
I think they’d like me to write a literary cheerleader about how much I love the day when I can bask in the affections of my daughters and how that one day keystones the central role of my existence.
I just can’t do it.
It’s odd, I know, because I egotistically believe I am the world’s most exuberant father. As evidentiary proof, I offer my sorry bank account.
It’s impossible to calculate how far behind I am professionally because of the two tiny time bandits for whom I am responsible.
I’ve written about it often and will continue to do so because I can’t forget the time when our oldest was 4 and I overheard her and her little buddies reporting what their daddies did for a living.
One said hers fixed cars. Another said her daddy built homes. The little red-haired neighbor said her dad was a dentist.
What did Josie’s daddy do?
“He plays with me.”
I remember thinking, man, that’s not going to look good on the loan applications.
That’s just what she thought I did. She never saw me doing any work and any time she’d march into my old basement office with her Barbies and her imagination I’d slam the lid on the laptop and the two of us would sail off to Fantasyland.
But I’ll have lived a life fulfilled if the aforementioned anecdote winds up in the first paragraph of my obituary.
I’m always broke, but my daughters know they are my priority. My euphoric love for them dominates my entire existence 364 days a year.
But on Father’s Day I’d rather they go with their mother to visit her father so I can be left alone.
On Father’s Day I like to think about my father.
His 2004 obituary said he was an optician. To reduce a man’s life to a petty occupation is pathetic tribute.
What did he do with his life?
He played with me.
He taught me how to play catch, ride a bicycle and swing a golf club. It was on his lap where I learned my enduring love for simple pleasures like watching a good movie or any baseball game.
He taught me the importance of family and that being a good father was more important than being a good optician, which he, indeed was.
He taught me no man is better than any other merely because of what’s in his wallet. 
It was because of watching him that I learned just how much shoestring fun this world can be and what a difference it makes if when you ask someone, “Hey, how you doing?” you actually care about the answer.
Here’s what we’d do this Father’s Day if he were still around: we’d be sitting in our homes about 50 miles apart watching the U.S. Open -- no hugs, no cakes, no cards.
We’d be calling each other every 20 minutes or so to talk about the golfers, the course and how much we were looking forward to the next time we could golf together.
Golfing with Dad was to me like church is to other people only with beer and fart jokes.
He very well might have been the most fun man who ever lived. I’ll always remember his funeral as his last and best party. It was a carnival of love. He is much missed by many.
Having him for a father is a prevailing blessing of my life.
I didn’t need Father’s Day to remind me of that. We’d didn’t need to make an appointment to see each other for just one day a year when the people who make greeting cards say we should.
So please excuse me if my smile seems forced on Sunday when I unwrap the inevitable “World’s Best Dad” coffee mug. I’ll patiently listen to the girls read the cheerful crayon notes telling me just what makes me so special but, honestly, my heart won’t be in it.
Father’s Day is maybe the only day of the entire calendar year when I don’t feel like being a dad.
I guess I just wish I could still be a son.

Interested in reading more about Paul Rodell? Check out the Pittsburgh Magazine story I wrote about him in 2004. They flattered me by headlining it, "The Life and Death of Joe Pittsburgher."

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