Monday, June 18, 2012

A Normal Father's Day

I don't often notice that it's Fathers Day.  Third Sunday in June, some ads go out, some places advertise sales on the radio.  I don't watch tv but I remember when I did.  Lots of ads on tv about dads.  The one print ad I saw and appreciated was for JC Penney and it featured a two-dad household with their two kids having a happy day.  I liked that a lot and immediately went shopping there with Grey.  He needed some new clothing anyway.

Lots and lots of people don't know about my dad.  I keep quiet and neither say anything supportive or anything derogatory about dads on this day or any other.  I really liked my Grandpa because he was always there.  He's been gone for a couple of years now and it's not like he taught me a whole lot of life lessons.  What he did was make me pancakes and watch rodeo and boxing on television with me. It was an easy relationship for both of us.

I like other dads. I like to see them involved with their kids and their families- no matter what form that takes. Blended families can be difficult and sometimes another dad will fill in for an absent one.  Tough job, that.  My friend Bonner is a great dad.  He has full custody of his teenage son and has for a long time.  My other friend Darren just moved back to Utah to take care of his aging parents and took his young son with him.  He is always writing about junior, their adventures and similarities.  It's neat to watch from afar.  My husband's dad is likewise awesome.  He and my mother in law have raised four well adjusted and more or less happy children who all enjoy spending time with them.  Heck, I enjoy spending time with my in laws and with Stashia, my sister in law.  Johnny, my father in law, tells corny jokes and is affectionate with all of his children.  He is a part of the reason that Grey is such a loving man.

So why did I sit in a restaurant yesterday, on Father's Day, trying to enjoy lovely pastries and excellent company and all I can do is complain about the server forgetting my order and not filling my coffee cup when I wanted her to? All around us sat families eating and talking and doing the regular things that they do on days like this.  Someone's child will volunteer to mow the yard and another might have the oil changed in the car.  Someone might make dinner at home or fire up the grill and barbecue on a sultry Oklahoma night with the cicadas singing and the mosquitos carrying off smaller pets.

I knew that I would write a blog post later and offer some insight into Father's Day.  I knew that lots of people don't like their dads at all.  Some dads have been actively abusive or neglectful or sometimes they have been assholes.  And I wanted to write something that might bring perspective or maybe bring me a zen moment.  I snorted derisively.  I snort when I laugh too much or am too angry for words.

There is no zen moment.  All I really have is a public service announcement about the dangers of drinking and driving because I am the poster child for what happens when someone makes that choice and accidentally slams into someone's dad's car and kills him instantly so that all three of his children will lose their father and that the child he doesn't yet know about- and now he will never know about her either.  Because I'm that 2 week embryo whose life was changed by other people's choices.   I would spend over 30 years of my life surviving poverty and my mother's other husbands and trying to figure out what normal was before I realized that normal is only for laundry detergent advertisements and JC Penney ads.

"You don't seem to be having a good time," said Grey.
"No. I didn't realize that Father's Day bothered me so much."
"I understand." Then he squeezed my hand.  And I felt like a selfish heel.

Here was this person who signed up to spend the rest of his natural life with me, to have children of our own and who occasionally moved heaven and earth to date me.

I had to smile at my own hubris.  My life is pretty damn good and I have nothing to complain about. My brothers-in-law are all good dads who spend time with their kids.  Nobody in my family is dead or dying and my mom even came to my wedding.  I would never have expected that to happen.

I shook my head and apologized.  Grey didn't seem to think it was a big deal.  We enjoyed the rest of meal and ran by accident in to an old friend, taking her parents out to brunch.  She's been having a rough time of it lately too, but for much different reasons.  I have always admired her.

Much later that evening, we took a cup of coffee to a friend whose mother is in the hospital right now.  Grey invited her to come stay with us, which I think is the nicest thing ever.  I hope she takes us up on it since our apartment in Tulsa is pretty close to the hospital.

I curled up in bed next to Grey last night, thinking about the past and things I can't change.  Then I thought about the right now and the things we can do to make life better for more than just ourselves.  Being teachers, doctors, engineers or social workers.  Being caring people of generous spirit and appreciative of the lives we get to live.

That's the kind of normal that I want.
Happy Father's Day

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