Saturday, June 14, 2014

A Pre-Father's Day Confession

This is on the Blue Ridge Parkway, 1980. Evan would be 6. I would be thin.
Father's Day is tomorrow and I don't quite know how to react to it, so I most often write a little remembrance about my dad, nothing about being a father myself.

That's because I wasn't good at it. My kids--Evan and Jennie--will say I was, but they're just being nice. I simply wasn't. I was drunk for most of their growing up years and you can't be passed out on the couch and attentive to the young 'uns at the same time.

I did some good things when I wasn't drinking. I read Poe to them with my best Richard Burton inflection. I cooked mac and cheese. I took Evan camping, hiking and fishing. I told Jennie she was gorgeous. But I left the heavy lifting to Chris, their very good mother, one who was always there, who handled the discipline, who paid for things, who went to school functions.

Jennie at about 16, 1983 or so. Still looks the same.
When Jennie asked me to be her date for the Patrick Henry High honors banquet I nearly fell over for two reasons: first, that she asked me, and second that she was an honor student. I didn't know that. I hadn't paid attention.

When Evan joined the lacrosse team at PH, I was a supporter, a fan, I think, and at one point even sat down with him and talked him out of quitting "because I'm not any good." That was my best dad moment, but I'm not sure it was all about Evan. I wanted to see him play, to take photos of him. That's actually pretty selfish, something that marked my fatherhood.

So I quit drinking and went to Jennie and asked forgiveness. "You'll understand if I'm a bit skeptical," she said. I deserved that. Several years later, she forgave me, accepted that I'd really changed and we began developing a relationship that I'm in love with today. She and I are a lot alike, so there is natural tension, but I love and respect that girl (who is 46 and not so much a girl now, but still an Ingrid Bergman look-alike).

Evan's always been quiet, accepting and never seemed to be bothered by my outrageous behavior. I think he's almost always liked me. I can't explain that and won't try, but I do enjoy having him as my son and I enjoy that he has given me a couple of grandkids that I adore: Madeline and Oz.

I am a good granddad, I think, a Pampa, which is Madeline's official title for me. Her friends even call me Pampa. I'm not as good as Wayne, Ev's father-in-law, but we're not in a competition and I have to be what I am. I'm happy with that.

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