Sunday, June 21, 2009

We hit the father lode

Last week at this time, my husband and I were planning to have lunch with my mother-in-law. As we contemplated if the restaurant would be packed and keep us waiting like a bunch of goobers (not good for an impatient perpetual motion machine kid, a hungry post-church mother-in-law and grandma-in-law, and a couple who manages to turn an idle ten minutes into a passive very aggressive whispered argument over who has been nicer to whom, vis-a-vis an incident the night before involving Tuna Helper), my husband said, "Well, isn't it Father's Day?" My heart/brain/facial expression melted. I raced through options in my head, rushed "secret" trips to the store/cards made/goodies baked, until I realized it wasn't that weekend -- I thought. But I wasn't sure. (I totally promise to be easy on you next year when you forget whether my birthday is on the second or third, babe.)

But others are much more on the ball, and I've been watching/reading a fair bit online the last few days about dads, their roles, their treatment, and so forth, in time for Father's Day.

The thing is, I've never really given much thought to "Do fathers get a raw deal," "Can they do just as good a job as mothers," or "Are fathers treated as second-class parents." Partly because my brain is busy thinking things like "Is the toilet going to flood our bathroom for a third time today," "Why on Earth did the universe entrust me with such an awesome kid and give me such a great partner," "Can we afford mortgage this month," "What the hell is that smell," "What's the difference between an eared grebe and a pied-billed grebe," and "Which Bakugan is blue, again?"

(Not necessarily in that order. Sometimes, though.)

(Yeah, these are all thoughts in my head at this moment.)

But it's also because my own family was never like that. Sure, there were times, many, that my mom was the "primary" rule giver, and when the shit (which, if it was there because of us, we'd better clean it up ourselves or ELSE) really hit the fan, she usually took charge at home because 1) she was the one home most often and 2) she was her (if you know her you'll know what I mean). But they were a team, and my father was about the most involved father one could possibly have. He taught me reading and humor and music appreciation and that Beach Boys are great if you're happy and Jim Croce is good if you're sad and how to be sarcastically snide to the music guy at Best Buy if he calls him "Jim Crochet." He taught me as much about baseball as is possible to cram into a three-year-old's head, and later, everything else about baseball. (I've fallen out of following it, but could still properly keep score in my sleep, backwards Ks and all, and I know that Ozzie Smith switch hit. Go crazy, folks.)

More than that, my dad was sort of a superdad. He was the popular teacher/coach at school, the goofy (though you can't really help but be goofy if you're as tall as a phone pole and wear SHORTS in front of 11- and 12-year-olds), sarcastic, teacher-it's-cool-to-like teacher. If a kid needed guidance or coaching or extra anything, he was there. We shared our dad often, and it somehow always seemed to add rather than take away in terms of his dad-ness.

I've written on my dad before. I pretty much idolized the guy. That, I always thought, is the standard by which all dads are to be measured. I have never exactly made a secret of how I felt.

So already, you can possibly see where my husband could have maybe felt pressured. Just a tad.

But it's not even that. I ... well, I don't hide it exactly, but there are some things I don't exactly broadcast. I used to think it was to not make my husband feel weird, or even my son. But it's me.

It's just: David didn't start out Aaron's.

But that's not how it is at all. The thing is, Aaron chose David. He chose both of us.

If I were telling another story, a romantic story, I’d tell here how my husband and I came to be married one December afternoon, with my son as ring bearer, how the ceremony went on to recognize the union of my husband and son as father and son. I’d tell how we all got to that point -- how Aaron and I had dated through high school and a few years afterward. How we had been the forever and ever couple. I’d tell about taking Aaron to my prom, unbothered when his family threw scandalized looks at my dress straps, as if this was exactly why their son had been home-schooled.

I’d tell the usual tired stories about betrayal and sex and school, and maybe some less-tired ones involving a diabetic coma (his), a black bear encounter (both of us, and we think a black bear), and even more daunting, encountering my mother after a particular indiscretion ("... and a teenage female, last name Henry-Ocean-Sam-Edward-Yellow. I think the male's head is about to implode from mortification. Wait, I just heard 'im yell 'Your mom has a POLICE SCANNER?!' I think I'm gonna make 'em wait a minute more, mess with 'em.") (Most definitely both of us, as my mother was delighted share).

I’d tell how our relationship had survived fights, only to disintegrate from stagnation. How it had nearly torn us both apart as individuals. How I’d dived headlong into a job I didn’t really like, met someone I didn’t really like, had a child, alone, and why I honestly never think about that man. I'd tell who Aaron had used that time to date. How, when we finally became good friends once again after three years of little communication, all of that seemed to fall away and it seemed natural and easy that we’d be together again. How it hasn’t really been that easy, if I'm honest with myself. How I know so completely that I want it, and him, anyway.

But I'm not telling that story. I guess the only important points here are: Aaron and I have known each other for about eighteen years. We've been super-close friends for the better part of those years, if not consecutively. We dated, then we didn't. I had a kid. He married me and embraced that kid. He loves my son. His son, our son.

No matter what we'd ever gone through, even before he was his "father," Aaron was there for David. He was the first visitor when I had him, a fixture around the house when I brought him home. Even before we'd considered anything like getting back together and back when he still thought he hated kids, he loved David. He was covered in spit-up and at least tried to change a diaper. Which is what parenting is, in my experience. I'm not a mushy goo-goo girl. I didn't know how to change a diaper until after I had a son. I am much more kid-inclined now that I used to be, but it's more by immersion and philosophical understanding. Kids are still a pain. But it's different with mine. And that's how Aaron is. He's not a kid person. But he's definitely an our-kid person. He's a dad.

Aaron isn't just like my own dad. Which isn't better or worse, just different. (Actually probably better for me specifically, since I never would have married someone just like my father -- two sarcastic, opinionated, never-backing-down bigmouths wouldn't have worked too well.) We're our own family. He's his own person, learning and growing and loving and screwing it up just as often as he gets it right just like the rest of us. But the one thing that is the same between them is the caring. I haven't known very many people who care as fiercely as my own father, and this one:

Happy Father's Day, baby.

(It IS this weekend, right?)


Christine said... Best Blogger Tips

Brought a tear to my eye. You write with such passion and conviction, yet it is never sappy. I always enjoy reading your posts.

Kevin J. Hosey said... Best Blogger Tips

A great story and set of emotions made better by your fine writing, Kim.

I still haven't blogged yet, just a short Facebook remark; I hate to go over the same territory and it means too much for anything less thoughtful.

heather said... Best Blogger Tips

Kim, that was wonderful. We've been blessed with great husbands/fathers. They have big shoes to fill after the Hosey men who came before them. As you said, they're all different, but great in their own ways. I love the photos, you somehow put your emotion into your pictures too.