Do you still wear Stetson? That is one early memory I have of you. Stetson cologne, or aftershave. I remember you grabbing my face and rubbing your 5 o’clock shadow on my cheek. We called it porcupine pa’ and it would always leave my cheeks pink and burning a little. It always made me smile though.
You drank Dr. Pepper out of the glass bottles and would always let me drink off the bottle as long as I promised not to backwash. You fixed up our play house in the backyard, helped us make our derby cars, took us to the YMCA, camping, and coached softball.
You were there if we needed spiders killed. I remember I would search my room each night, almost obsessively, for spiders. I would look along the corners and walls and ceiling and if I saw the smallest black dot, even if it wasn’t moving, I would yell for you. You’d come in and make sure the spider was killed so I could feel safe going to sleep that night.
I asked you recently what you are most proud of. What is your legacy? You said you have a ranch that no one wants. I know it is hard for you to be vulnerable and speak about your feelings. You guard them with humor. I do this at times as well. I wish you were more comfortable talking about your feelings. I know deep down you are a fragile human being who gets his feelings hurt easily and cares what some people think about you. Some people.
I remember when I was younger, I would be up at night crying because I had overwhelming emotions about everything and the anxiety would keep me up at night. I remember you were tired from working all day and you were stressed, so you didn’t comfort me. You would just get upset and yell for me to be quiet. I wished you would have been more empathetic. I wish you would be more positive and remember you are a father and you are important, especially to children.
When mom left, I enjoyed our time together more. I remember this was when we all really bonded and got to know you more like a dad instead of the disciplinarian. You relied on us and we relied on you. We became more of a tight knit family. Especially when other families moved in with us and it got a bit territorial.
We had some really great adventures in those years. I enjoyed grocery shopping late at night and acting goofy in the store, throwing pads and toilet paper across the aisles to each other. You taught me some really good work ethic both at work and around the house.
I think it is cool that you stayed with us kids and took care of us by yourself, although it was mostly chaos, which was pretty fun teenage years. I liked that you were the “cool dad.” My friends liked coming to my house because I didn’t have a super strict annoying dad. I liked that I wasn’t micromanaged with my school work and where I was and who I was with. I liked that you trusted me, or just didn’t want to deal with it.
I like how you are clean and organized. I remember when we had that other family living with us and we all had to pick a colored fabric marker to mark our tags on our clothes so we wouldn’t get our laundry mixed us with each others.
I wonder what I learned those years, living with different types of people and personalities. I know you gotta take the good with the bad. I am sure that helped me be able to adapt to different ways of living, go with the flow, etc. I know that you always wanted to make sure we liked who you were dating and you didn’t take that person over your kids. If we didn’t like the person, then you wouldn’t date them anymore.
I remember when we got the WebTV we would all sit around taking turns chatting with our friends. It was funny watching you hunt and peck your letters to make some witty response. You would be smiling the whole time you were typing. You would always use an ellipsis and an “lol” to end your sentences.
You are weird, funny and cheesy. I enjoy when you are in good moods, which seems to be rare. I know whenever you asked us to work on the vehicles with you, we would dread it because you would have these crazy mood swings depending on how the progress was coming along. We looked forward to when the job would be accomplished so we could go eat or watch some tv.
I know you aren’t the cookie cutter dad. I don’t want you to be. I know each Father’s Day when people are buying their dads ties, golf balls and beer glasses, you would rather just have junk food. I remember when we were little we would get you things like funny t-shirts, shower towels and more Stetson.
As a dad, you made sure I learned how to do important things like balance a check book, put away groceries, pack a box, load a dishwasher, ride a bike, throw, hit and catch a ball, fill out job applications, be a hard worker, check the oil in my car, fish, camp, drive and stand up for myself.
I want you to know it is okay to have deep, meaningful conversations about things that make you feel vulnerable. You don’t have to be tough all the time. It is okay to say when you are proud of someone. It is okay to ask if everything is alright. I remember recently, when I did the surrogacy and was in the hospital with high blood pressure you showed concern and kept checking on me. Don’t wait until something is happening before checking on me. I like when you show interest in how I am feeling, thinking and decisions I am making. You are my dad. Although I don’t like being told what to do, I do like to hear when you are happy, proud or have something positive to say.
You are an interesting person and I would love to just sit and interview you some day to find out more about you as a person. No humor to veil the true feelings. I know you hold things inside a lot and you shouldn’t have to do that.
This is all over the place. I hope you know that I understand you did your best. You are doing your best. I understand that you love me and you are proud of me. I understand you want what is best for me. I understand you have had stress and struggles and sometimes we were a burden.
I think the only time I saw your feelings of sadness and vulnerability was when mom left. You needed all of us then and we were there for you. You had some crazy mood swings while you were going through that time and as teenagers we weren’t totally understanding and empathetic. It was pretty dysfunctional, but we all got through it and had some really good times. I remember we would watch tv together like Love Connection, Ally McBeal and WWF. I don’t remember sitting and watching tv together before. Maybe we did, but it isn’t a memory that sticks in my mind.
I know you probably think I am just bashing you, but I am being truthful. I don’t want to hurt your feelings. I want you to know that I understand you did your best. You are doing your best. You are who you are. I am sure I left out a bunch of stuff and didn’t remember most things because my memory sucks, but I love you dad. I hope this made you feel happy because that is what my intent.