Category Archives: dad life

The day I’ll always remember

Only for my family it’s today, December 22nd, and not September 3rd.

Oct 25, 1949 - Dec 22, 1991

I am not sure how others may feel when losing a parent at a young age; for me, the absence is always there. In the beginning this was “standard” personal grief, five-stages stuff, but as I’ve grown older and become a father as well, it’s less overt. It strikes me more that I’m not just missing him, directly, but missing him in relation to everyone else I love. Things are subtly out of context because he’s not with us.

For example, my son has his Baba, my wife’s dad, and each loves the other dearly. It’s a blessing and a great joy. Watching them, sometimes, the absence will suddenly poke up from the background and make itself known: my son doesn’t have both Babas there. I have no doubt that Dad would have doted to distraction on The Lad, as he would have done to my sister’s son.

My father was not one to be uninvolved. I think he would have enjoyed talking shop with my wife’s father, chatting about families, retirement, politics. I picture him still drawing, only now putting the stuff up on Instagram; getting after me to write more; finding a part-time job somewhere to enjoy during his retirement. He’d be amazed if he came back now to learn that they made three more Star Trek series, five more Star Wars films, and that my Atari 2600 games had eventually morphed into near-photo-realistic experiences, influenced heavily by the mainstreaming of anime – which he only saw on the fringes of popular culture, or else in dumbed-down, highly-edited versions for children such as Battle of the Planets, Star Blazers, or Speed Racer.

In our family he was the “everyday” cook – Mom handled holidays for the most part, and the rest of the time Dad was playing culinary Frankenstein, cadging ingredients into an impromptu family dinner. It’s been a long time since we’ve done that, and not just because all three of us kids are adults now.

He’d be stopping by during the season, jibing me for going over the top with holiday gift-giving while steadfastly forgetting that he’s the source of that habit of mine; in turn we’d tease him because his normal gruff baritone became a Michael McDonald falsetto whenever he sang. And he would laugh and sing anyway, because he loved music and it was nearly always playing in our home. He probably would have bought one of the earliest iPods and kept up with the technology the whole time, while figuring out a way to get all his albums, cassettes, and 8-tracks digitized – because why should you pay for it all twice?

I am now two years and several weeks older than he was when he passed away, twenty-five years ago today.

Here’s to you, Dad.

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Dads and lads

I miss the best conversations over the weekend. Morgan talked about Millennials and masculinity, then Severian had a great take, and now I’m left to play catch-up.

We’re pretty well-saturated with the idea that manhood is not very welcome nowadays. People have been writing books books about it, and starting websites to counteract it. There are memes, and memes, and yet more memes. And on the flip-side of this, there’s the common laments for the coming generation for as long as new generations have come, right back to when Cain struck down Abel.

More recently, Steven Taylor was singing:

“As we watch the family die an orphan choir rehearses
Their daddies left without a goodbye
Will you, my man, buckle under these curses?”

That was in 1993, when Gen-Xers such as myself were just getting through college. So the question is, has the trend accelerated since then – is there a difference this time, or is this something where the skeptics are right and we should really just relax?

Put my checkmark in the “no, let’s not relax just yet” column. I think there are differences of substance between what was lamented in my father’s time, and my time, vs. now…

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The wisdom of thugs

Mentioning The Catcher in the Rye is sort of like putting on high-end polarized glasses – it clarifies and contrasts. I knew a kid in middle school, for example, that really identified with Holden Caulfield.

* No, not me. And no, not everyone does. Even if we all rebel in some fashion, and even if some of us act that insufferably, not everyone thinks that he’s an example, much less a brave hero of sorts. In fact it’s an open question whether Salinger himself thought much of Holden, or if he wrote him in order to hold him up for ridicule in comparison to his younger and far-more-competent sister.

I’m thinking of this in light of Catcher’s inclusion in one of those “have you really read it?” lists that goes around the Web occasionally. (For the record, Catcher is one of the eleven books out of the twenty that I have read.) It’s also something of kismet since the Wil Wheaton flapdoodle about his “Hillary’s Harpies” tweet and subsequent cringing obeisance before crybully mob. What happened to Wheaton is actually a lot like what happened to Caulfield in his physical confrontations… which is depressing, because a Holden Caulfield who never grows up is truly sad to contemplate.

That all brings us here, and to this comment by e-migo Nate regarding bullies. Now, they’re bad, mind you. And bullies who never outgrow it are just as depressing as Holdens who never do. They become quite dangerous – in fact, the bullies and the Holdens grow in many ways to resemble each other. But when they come into conflict, well… as they used to say on the nature shows, “Sadly, there can only be one outcome.”

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