Saturday, February 17, 2007

On Fatherhood

When I was eleven years old, my father retired at age fifty-five. Being the youngest of six by twelve years, my father's retirement when I was so young afforded me a lot more time with him than my older siblings. In that regard, I guess I was blessed. I missed out on a lot of the family stories, the anecdotes and what not that my older siblings shared-- but I did get a chance to make a lot of fresh and new memories with him.

My mother didn't retire until I graduated from high school. So when I'd have doctor/dental/orthodontic appointments it was my father who would take me, not my mom. For awhile when I was having to go to the orthodontist once a month over in Plattsburgh, my father and I would go to O'Toole's and split a grilled chicken Caesar salad. We'd listen to music (generally of my choosing) on the drive home. He actually didn't mind my choices in music as it was often music by Chicago, Tower of Power, Bela Fleck & the Flecktones, the Sons of Champlin, and various groups cut from that and similar cloths.

In 1993, my father & I drove 3 hours to Latham, NY to see my favorite band, Chicago, live. We did the same trip in 1994, and in the summer of 1996 when I was home from college my mother also joined us on our trip south to see Chicago (that time it was in Saratoga Springs).

I didn't rebel like many teenagers. I mean I had my streaks of independence, and when I did "leave the nest" for college, I REALLY left it by going to a college over 600 miles away. But I didn't see the point in rebelling or doing things that would hurt or disappoint someone whom I loved and respected so much. My father's disapproval would have been unbearable for me, so I made it a point to never do anything that would get his disapproval.

That's not to say I'm not close to my mom too... I am, in some ways moreso than I am to my father. When Toni & I were going through some rough spots with her parents, it was my mom not my dad I'd go to. But I know she'd tell him about it... And I know, even without him ever saying the words, that it broke his heart as much as hers whenever he'd hear me in pain/distress.

So now as Toni & I discuss how much we want to start a family, there is that fear in the back of my mind. Will I be as good a father to my kids as my father was to me and my siblings? I've got a rather tough act to follow, but if I'm even half as good a father to my kids as my dad was to me, they're going to turn out well.

The one thing that does give me sadness though is knowing that those kids that Toni & I hope to have won't have the chance to get to know my parents the way my nieces & nephews have. I know my father-in-law is going to be a good grandfather and an excellent role model. But I want my kids to know both sets of their grandparents.


The Phoenix said...

I think fatherhood is a strange and profound thing. You can read about it and prepare for it as much as you want, but when it hits - it's like a macktruck.

There's some panic involved, mellowed by moments or serenity and peace. And then more panic.

But there's also different phases. Some other fathers I know are wonderful dads today, but when their kids were infants or babies, they weren't as good. Others don't hit their stride until their kids are adolescents.

It's different for everyone. Regardless, there's one common denominator of fatherhood: panic.

Snooze said...

What a beautiful post. It's so nice to read about someone who had a great relationship, and still does, with his parents.

Awareness said...

I had a similar relationship with my parents. As the oldest daughter of three, I was the "son" my father never had....and he would always include me in any activity that he seemed to be organizing with the boys in the neighbourhood who always came knocking on the door on Sundays to play football etc. He used to coach me in baseball, and "many early weekend mornings, we would drive to Ellicottville NY (you know where that is Perplexio?) to ski for the day. Just the two of and skiing.....

When I was at university, he would call me on the Thursday to see if I had plans to go home for the weekend. If I did, he would drive the hour or so to pick me up (always we could talk about work and school and politics and stuff) on Friday afternoon, and drive me back after dinner on Sunday.

On the other side of the coin, we are a lot alike.....and can get into some heated arguments. Yes...but they always get cleared up.

I don't live near my parents and so my kids don't benefit from them being a part of their daily lives, but they still have a special relationship.....just last summer my Dad took my 9 year old and two of his cousins to Cooperstown. And, my mom calls regularly, and often sends care packages to the kids. We are all heading up to Ontario for the March Break in a couple of weeks for some "relative" time with my sisters and families and my parents.......and my in-laws....they are all kids are beside themselves in are their cousins....

Oh, this is long......but I have one more thing.....the other night, my son told me while we were driving somewhere in the car that he loved his life so far, and that he probably has a better life than billionaires, because he has lots of people who love him and he has lots of friends, whereas billionaires according to him have to work too hard to have time for family and friends.... I said, "You know what I think is the most important thing and it covers family and friends and love? It's the feeling of belonging...that you matter to many people just like they do to you......." and he said.

"That's it...... I belong to my family no matter what."

Was that not a hallmark moment or what?? I do believe you have the ingredients and you have been given the gifts from your parents :) You'll know what works.....and what's needed because you had the gift of unconditional love. How friggin' great is that?? :)

BarBarA said...

Darrin, my friend, I can guarantee that you are going to be a good father. How can I be so confident? Because you want to be. You don't have a role model to live up to - you have one to follow! The simple fact that these words were penned from your heart tell me that you are going to be wonderful.

Also, my son never met my dad, but he refers to him as "Grandpa Gerald" and knows a ton of stories about him. Even though my dad died years before Kev came along - the memories live on.

How old are your parents now? 70's?