My wife turned over in bed and said “Happy Father’s Day, honey! Would you like breakfast in bed?” “No thanks,” I replied. “But some early morning ‘p and q’ [peace and quiet] would really be nice.” One of my most favorite times in the day is early, early morning, before the kids get up. I often wait for the newspaper to be delivered at 5:30 am just to sit and read, uninterrupted for 30 minutes before getting ready for work. My quiet time is worth so much to me I gladly go to bed at the ungodly hour of 9:30 or 10 just to exercise this morning pleasure.
Father’s Day 2001 was off to a great start. A day when I could do just about anything I wanted with little or no guilt. I read. Read the Post and the NY Times. All in glorious solitude.
I built. Ok, constructed a pre-fab IKEA bookcase for my new office downstairs. I moved. Moved my books from my old office (which had been doubling as my daughter’s bedroom for sometime) to my new one. I cleaned and threw out. Threw out piles of ancient notes, articles, and outdated computer books. This is most difficult for me, throwing out books. I would never have done that in the pre-digital age. Perfectly good-looking books. I kept them so much beyond their usefulness I don’t think I could find a place to even donate them to. How-to’s on Illustrator 4 (aren’t they up to version 10 now?), Photoshop 3, and long extinct applications like MacWrite.
When my eldest daughter woke up she couldn’t wait to give me the card Mom had bought for her and her sister. Now, just a word about cards. We don’t believe in them. Well, not the store-bought $2.95 a shot kind. Hand made are great. But who wants to spend all that money on a greeting even your grandparents would find inappropriate and sappy. Who writes these things? When forced to, we’re lucky enough to be right around the block from the Factory Card Outlet, where every card is 49 cents! Once every three months we stock up.
My wife had warned me about her extravagance but said she’d actually found one at the CVS Drugstore that was so perfect it was worth the extra cost. And, indeed, it was.
Next on the agenda was my daughter’s tap dance recital. Twenty-nine classes had their 2 minute turns at glory. Bedecked in sequins and frill, purple, canary yellow, and shocking pink, each class did their dance. The three-year olds were cutest. And every so often you saw the arm of an assistant just off stage, mirroring the moves the little ones were to make. And once in a while a child just stood there frozen in angst, looking out at the multitudes of parents, grandparents, and friends cheering her and her fellow dancers on.
Of course, my daughter was wonderful!
I wasn’t allow to video the performance. You have to buy the school’s professionally made tape. And the program was much too long. But in that darkened auditorium I reflected on the meanings of this ritual for my daughter and of the father’s day rituals of my childhood. Darkened auditoriums are often petri dishes for my mind.
It occurred to me that, since my father’s death last Fall, I was now the patriarch of the family. Oh, not in the “ruler of my domain” sense. Afterall, this was the 21st century and I was a child of the 60s. Nevertheless, I was the eldest man now. My sister’s husband had died a few years back so I could see the possibility that this might have meaning to her children, even though they’re in their twenties. I didn’t know what to make of this at all. What responsibilities does the role mandate? Does age equal wisdom? Not necessarily when you look at the history of my upbringing.
When we got home there was a voicemail from my sister, wishing me a happy dad’s day. I know this day’s hard for her, thinking about her husband and dad. I immediately returned her call. When I got her answering machine I told her I had been thinking about her and about the discovery of my newly found patriarchy. But, I told her, this patriarchy would be filled with fun and happiness. Yes! Happiness was the legacy I’d like to bring to the job!