Maybe it’s because I’m a woman and a mother – different in so many ways from men and fathers – but I’ve always had a hard time sorting out Father’s Day.
It’s not that I don’t think fathers deserve their day; I just have a hard time telling how much it really means to them.
The trappings of Mother’s Day – flowers, cards and Sunday brunches – just don’t strike me as guy things, generally speaking. The things we associate with Father’s Day, like shirts and ties, don’t seem all that meaningful without a high-end, perhaps Ralph Lauren label.
Since I don’t understand that part of Father’s Day, I’ll focus on what I can grasp: remembrance. My late father was complicated, brilliant and quiet, with a laugh that made his shoulders shake and a willingness to embarrass himself if even one small baby smiled.
When I was in my early 20s, I found myself stranded almost two hours from home in the middle of the night. Naturally, I called my parents. I had no fear that they would be angry or would lecture me all the way home; I focused on the fact that I was safe, and I trusted them to focus on the same.
Still, after they arrived, an apology seemed in order. My mother was back in the car after getting out to hug me. My father was standing in front of me. He seemed much taller than usual, so maybe I was a little nervous. Or, maybe he seemed taller because he had just stepped up – as my parents had many times before – to protect me.
“Dad, I’m so sorry,” I said. “I got you up in the middle of the night and made you drive all this way just because I did something dumb.”
“Honey,” said my father, “I’d drive around the world for you.”
The simple act of writing that sentence 40 years later made me cry.
My father became a grandfather five times, and he was over the moon about each one. Another baby to hold, another baby to make smile, another baby to make laugh – that was success to a man like him.
Dad was the man who, without fail, refused to eat a bite of dinner until my brothers were home from their paper routes, and the family could sit down together. He was the man who taught us that home was the place where we’d always be safe, where no one would ever tear us down. He was the man who defended his kids to the death, no matter who dared to imply that we were anything less than angels.
He was the man.