Here’s the card that I got my dad for Father’s Day.
Yeah, still in the plastic sleeve.
I sometimes wonder what The Cats In The Cradle would sound like if written from the son’s perspective.
Probably because asI’ve been procrastinating what to write to my dad on his Father’s Day card, I was trying to think of early memories of dad and struggled to do so. Of course, that’s not surprising with my memory.
Side Bar: earlier this week I found myself chuckling at how accurate the phrase “killing a few brain cells” was as shorthand for drinking.
Anyway, that was about when The Cats In The Cradle popped onto my mental jukebox. It’s been knocking around ever since.
What wasn’t surprising was that I never really associated that song with my dad. He had a pretty good work/life balance. As a matter of fact, when he did have to work on weekends when I was a kid it was a treat for me to go to work with him.
In a fit of Harry Chapin irony, I’ll be working today while the rest of the family is out to brunch with dad and grandpa.
But when I got to go to work with him, it was a strangely exciting environment. He was an engineer and the offices were usually darkened except for his office, lending a feeling of isolation to the day…like we were the only two people on the planet. Sometimes his boss or a co-worker would also pop in, but usually it would just be the two of us and I would play with his drafting tools while he worked.
One time as we pulled up, I was amazed to see a battered old airplane fuselage in the yard of his company – he worked for a pipe manufacturer and apparently the fuselage was bought for scrap metal. I don’t know if this is something that my child’s imagination and sense of wonder filled in or not, but I remember associating the old aircraft with a recent news story about a plane crash. It gives the whole working weekend with dad thing a further sense of adventure in my memory.
One of my other random childhood memories of dad was one of the few snow days we had as a kid. Dad – I’m sure for the sake of mom’s sanity – had taken us boys out to play in the snow. Somehow – probably I innocently pegged dad with a surprise snowball, the real surprise being I threw something and hit a target – dad ended up chasing me around, both of us laughing like maniacs. Dad had eventually caught me, obviously, and we’re both laughing; I’m trapped…he’s holding me facing away from him, feet dangling a few inches off the ground and he’s feeding me a snowball that I didn’t order.
And we’re laughing and laughing and laughing like maniacal popsicles. It was a good day. Especially for me, since I’m not the outdoorsy type. I’m sure that’s why it stayed with me. I was more the stay inside and study or watch Gillian’s Island type of kid versus the athletic type like my siblings.
I remember when I got my first “real” job. No more picking berries during the summer for me, now I was a man with a real job! Must’ve been maybe 14 or so? No…had to have been younger. Maybe I was in the seventh grade? How old are kids then?
Anyway, I was hired by the golf course down the road to shag and clean balls – shut up, Diezel – at the driving range.
Yeah, I was the target.
And I felt so cool! It was obviously a new sensation for me.
Anyway, I’d been hired to take over for the owner’s son when he went away to school. It was great! Again, not being outdoorsy or sportsball-inclined, this was a big deal to me. This helped connect me to both my dad and grandfather, since golf was his favorite pastime.
Oops, is his favorite pastime.
I got fired.
I walked into the so-called Pro Shop one afternoon for work and the owner was behind the counter and just says he doesn’t need me anymore, it’s not working out and he’s gonna have to let me go.
I was pretty shocked.
I rode my bike home kind of in a daze. This is one of those weird times as a kid where something fairly traumatic happened to my kid self and I kind of logically processed my feelings but as soon as I hit my driveway, I just reverted to traumatized kid mode and started bawling.
Not for nothing, it turned out that my dad hears my literal sob story and takes off to the golf course.
How fucking awesome is that?
Dad takes off out of the driveway to give that mean old golf course dude what for!
He comes home a little later, I think the real story ended up being…guess who came home from school for the summer?
What a dick move. But dad had sorted that situation for me and – while still sad at losing my cool job – salvaged my shredded dignity and sense of self-worth.
It was heroic to my barely teenaged self.
Luckily, dad was there to support me during my transition back to the Summer berry-picking workforce. It wasn’t the last time I’d find myself between jobs and not the last time dad was there to help minimize the struggle between paychecks.
I know I’m lucky.
Probably my favorite memory of dad wasn’t a specific memory, rather, it was a time in my life.
An era, if you will. And it’s my blog, so you will.
It was when we both lived in SoCal.
Belmont Shore, specifically.
Mom and dad had separated. Mom and the rest of the kids were back in Portland. Dad was single. I was coming out.
We lived just blocks from each other. I was young, moving around often. Dad was in his idyllic little stucco building on St Joseph. Still, we were never more than a few blocks away…it was like a tether, living that close to my dad as a nascently independent adult.
We’d run into each other at the local convenience store…the 7-eleven, the Murder Mart, the AM/PM. Me: buying Super Big Gulps for the day at the beach; him: Coors Light or lottery tickets.
Hey, we both have faith in the lottery, ok?
We never ran into one another at bars, obviously, but we each had our neighborhood haunts. His: Legends; mine: Ripples. As a matter of fact, I can scarcely remember running into him once at a restaurant. It’s just the vaguest of memories.
Maybe it’s a false repressed memory. Who knows? But for not running into each other while eating, dad made a point of being fairly consistent about having a standing dinner or lunch date with me. We’d meet weekly and go to breakfast at Chuck’s on the beach – still my nostalgia dive favorite breakfast place. Or we’d go to Hof’s Hut for lunch. Or maybe SuperMex for dinner.
It was nice.
I never felt like it was dad taking me out. I felt more like I was getting to know him as a man. Maybe he felt the same way…a lot had changed with us both.
It’s when I feel like I became friends with my father. That’s why that era is such a fondly treasured time for me.
It’s funny, I don’t really consider my father to have any resemblance to the ne’er around father from that Harry Chapin classic, obviously. I do think I’m damn lucky to be able to say I’ve grown up to be even a hint of the person that is my father.
And, who knows? Maybe next year I’ll mail the damn card. Baby steps.