A perfect portrait of my first family.
Another Fathers' Day rolls up on the calendar and I receive it with my usual ambivalence.
Social network feeds are bursting with adorable photos and amazing accolades for all the great daddies of the world. And mine, I impassionately note, was a total dud.
Well. Maybe that's not fair, my superego reminds me for the umpteeth time. He wasn't a drunk or a thief or a murder. He could have been worse.
So in the interest of forgiveness and compassion and recognizing that no one in this world is perfect, I once again challenge myself to offer the Top Ten Good Things About My Dad:
10. I could always tell he was smart. And based on simple genetics, I always figured that I must be smart too.
9. Not sure who convinced whom to make it happen, but together, my parents bought an old one-room fishing cottage and fixed it up to be my childhood home. I can't imagine growing up anywhere else.
8. He had a highly refined sense of order and always kept his socket wrenches, drill bits and screwdrivers in precise, immaculate, pristine order - lined up perfectly in drawers that were forbidden to me, but I peeked in just the same. Thus, my appetite for delicious OCD perfection was whetted.
7. Bridges, ore boats, Saturn rockets, Indy 500, flying saucers and slot car racing - he was interested in some things that interested me too and grew me in new directions.
6. We took exactly two vacations in my entire childhood - twice we visited Rocky Mountain National Park with side trips to the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde, the United States Air Force Academy and a giant meteor crater in Arizona. But in those two trips, my love of travel was born.
5. He worked at University of Michigan and helped to develop the computer systems needed for the space race. I thought that was cool.
4. The story goes that during my first few months of life, I was quite the colicky little miss, and he rubbed my back in such a way to bring me peace.
3. As a toddler, I was fascinated with buttoning the tiny little buttons on the back pockets of his dress pants. It was my job to check them every morning and I took great pride in that responsibility.
2. For the most part, he was endlessly cheerful. I remember much good-natured banter and joking, telling us, "Hold onto your hats," as he drove round countless curves on our winding country roads and reminding us, "Write if you get work," when we headed outdoors to play. I definitely inherited that knack for running commentary and goofy gift of gab.
And the Number One Good Thing About My Dad:
1. After nearly a decade of shamelessly cheating on his marriage, instigating horrible fights at all times of day and night, and neglecting his duties as not only a husband but also as a father, he moved out when I was eleven years old and, barring a few awkward Christmas visits, did not ever come back.
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And for all these things, I am grateful.
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Stories about my less-than-perfect dad: