Monday, June 22, 2009

Daddy Issues

Most dudes I know have a complicated relationship with their dads. It's not a straightforward one-to-one kind of deal, where the dad offers sage life advice and smokes a pipe and wears natty cardigans, and the son kneels obediently at their feet, waiting for said life advice to be doled out in easy-to-remember chunks. Because real people don't exist in 22-minute slices of time, the actual fathering of the sons becomes a little more fraught. Well, not the actual fathering, which is pretty straightforward and takes significantly less time. I mean the parenting, which isn't really a verb, but hell, let's roll with it.

It's not like my girlfriends have an easy time with their mothers, but at least most moms stuck around to screw us up. Dads are usually the parent who disappears when marriages end, which leaves the kids gettin to know their fathers through awkward breakfast dates and guiltily written cheques...if they're lucky. Some fathers just take flight, leaving town and occasionally starting a new family in a different area code. There's a scene in Fight Club where Ed Norton talks about how his dad started fresh every six years, "like he was starting a franchise," and he isn't a rare oiseau. While Mama Bear usually keeps the cubs and the cave, Papa Bear can wander the forest, catching salmon and pooping. (Yeah, I'm comparing divorced couples to bears. It's an analogy, or maybe a simile. It's probably not a total success, either.)

I'm lucky - my dad not only stuck around, he's also a good father. I was a 100% asshole during my high school career, and somehow, my relationship with parents survived. While my mom took the brunt of my jerk-store behaviour, my dad wasn't immune, and it's amazing that we even hang out, let alone like each other. To my credit, I did develop a sense of humour somewhere in the past ten years, which probably saved my ass from any number of lost relationships. However, to their credit, my folks were willing to get past a few terrible years and move into, like, a healthy adult relationship with me. That's lucky. My parents are awesome.

My friends gleefully refer to my dad as "the silver fox," a moniker he earned by having white hair and remaining a trim, handsome guy into his middle age. (Both my parents have aged astonishingly well, which means I can look forward to getting carded well into my sixties.) He used to have this rooster-esque hairdo, which was floppy and long and kind of business-silly, but when my sister needed chemo, he shaved his head in solidarity. Weirdly, it made him look more muscular and about ten years younger, but he didn't do it for vanity; he did to support his daughter. He's a stand-up fella, my dad.

I know Mother's Day is a huge deal, with the brunches and the flowers and the hats, but Father's Day shouldn't be tossed aside. Dads are important: their presence and values inform us as both children and adults, and their absence and flaws can make a significant impact on the people we become. When I was rhyming off ideal boyfriend characteristics to my mom a few weeks ago, I included "good relationship with both parents," because a dude with a solid connection to his ma and pa (regardless of their marital status) is likely to share some of the values that my own parents instilled in me: communication, flexibility, honesty, and the importance of getting a little tipsy with out-of-town friends and blasting Tubular Bells at four in the morning. The usual stuff.

So: Mom, I love you. Dad, I love you, and happy Father's Day. You're both awesome.

1 comment:

  1. Good blog, Kaitlyn....thanks, from my heart...Love dad