Editorís Note: I normally put political stuff in this space, but our pig of a president has worn me out. After way more than 100,000 deaths and demonstrations in the streets, I have no desire to talk about race, conservatism or presidential politics. As the country heads into the toilet of Trumpism, writing about current events just isnít much fun anymore. So, this month, we have Fatherís Day. I donít even have a father, and Iíve never been one myself, so I canít claim a great deal of expertise on the subject, but here goes anyway.


The Road Not Taken

 

 

Iíve always envied men who were friends with their fathers ó grown sons who fished, played tennis, or went to movies or baseball games with their dads. I did all those things with my father as a kid, but we never had the chance to become friends as adults.

My senior year in college, I came home from school for my 21st birthday. When I arrived, dragging a bag of dirty laundry for Mom, my father suggested, ďHow about a few beers at Haggertyís tonight for your birthday? You can pay.Ē Haggertyís was a charmingly seedy Irish pub where Dad sometimes shot pool, but weíd never gone to a bar together.

Unfortunately, Iíd already made other plans. When I told him a bunch of my friends were taking me out that night, he said, ďThatís okay. Maybe some other time.Ē I had no idea there would be no other time.

Dad was not a well man. When I turned 21 in 1973, he was 47, but he already looked 60. During the year and a half that followed, he had two heart failures, two small strokes and a massive heart attack that would kill him at 48.

Driving back to school at the end of the weekend, Iíd felt bad about turning down his invitation. I donít even remember whom I went out with that night or where we went. The friends who took me out for my birthday were probably guys I still see to this day. Iíd spent my 21st birthday doing things Iíd have the rest of my life to do, rather than something that should have been a milestone.

When I found myself looking into my fatherís coffin less than two years later, I thought back to that weekend. And something struck me that I hadnít thought about at the time: Dad had said, ďYou can pay.Ē Heíd made a point of telling me Iíd be picking up the tab for my own birthday outing. It took me awhile to realize what that meant.

Like most fathers, heíd always paid my way. Even when I had a job as a teenager and made my own money, whatever we did ó eating at the diner or going to a movie ó he paid the bill. But that night wouldnít have been a father taking his kid out for a few beers. It was to be two adults, two equals, with me paying for him. It would have been a rite of passage, and, to this day, I feel bad about missing out on it.

You donít get a lot of ďdo-oversĒ in life. What you do get is the knowledge that even higher education isnít enough to keep 21-year-old boys, who are typically dumb as a bag of door knobs, from making poor choices. The 46 Fatherís Days Iíve spent without a father since then have always made me think about the ways we miss our chances to make family members our friends.

On occasions like this yearís Fatherís Day, those lucky enough to have living fathers should take advantage of the opportunity. If you have anything you ever wanted to do with your father, do it. If thereís anything left unsaid, say it. You never know how or when the chance will be taken from you forever. If you can make your dad a little bit more of a friend, thereís no time like now.

This works on Motherís Day too. Sheíll always be your mom, not your pal; thatís just how things are, at least for sons, but you can still talk to her like a friend. When I learned Mom was developing senile dementia, I waited for a lucid day, and we talked for hours. It was time well-spent for both of us. Things unspoken for years were settled, as best they could be, and when she died a couple years later, we had few unresolved issues.

And it also works for those who are already friends. When my health began to fail in 2018, I didnít expect to make it to the end of the year. I decided to tell the people who meant the most to me how I felt about them. Much to my surprise, I didnít die, so I should have been embarrassed at such a premature spouting off. But Iím not. And I choose to think the people I spoke to were pleasantly embarrassed.

Between the railroad car of beer Iíve swilled over the years, and the other ďfunĒ I had in college, Iíve lost quite a few brain cells and IQ points, but Iím wiser now than I was at 21. And Iím just smart enough to believe that, on Fatherís Day 2020, we should all try to treat our friends a little bit more like family, and treat family more like friends.


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