Sunday, May 07, 2023

A Plethora of Thoughts About Fatherhood

I have been thinking a lot about fatherhood lately, based on my own experiences and triggered by a Facebook post by friend Vegasfan1970 regarding raising his son from  the beginning of kindergarten to the end of his senior year of high school.

For years, I have publicly called fatherhood the world's greatest unpaid job. I stand by that statement. Some thoughts that have been buzzing around in my mind recently ...

Several years ago I made an incredibly naïve statement to a woman from work.  I knew she had adult children whereas mine were not quite yet adults. I said to her "Gee -- it must be nice having adult children and no longer having all their worries as when they were younger." She just laughed at me. I found out later that one of her adult children was in some type of trouble, from marital issues and/or criminal/legal problems. I guess I should have at least thought about a previous supervisor whose daughter had a child born out of wedlock at an early age. This supervisor largely brought up her daughter's daughter.

My own father, John (or called Jack by many family and friends) was a product of his times: the Great Depression and World War II. Although he was extremely bright and did exceptionally well in high school, his was not a world of higher education not any sort of "professional," or office job. His passions were mechanics and things he could build and fix with his hands. He did construction work early on and later specialized in mechanics, especially with huge machines. We sometimes joked that he was like Ed Norton from The Honeymooners -- working in the sewer. He derisively called guys who dressed in suits and took the commuter train into Chicago "office boys." Unfortunately, two of his four sons (myself and thundering36) were professional educators, which I don't think he ever fully appreciated nor understood. He felt more comfortable in the world of fixin' things.

He was perhaps typical of the WWII vets, early on smoking lots of Lucky Strikes and drinking Jim Beam and beer. As a father, he worked a regular job and then worked several nights at my uncle's gas station, helping to pay off a mortgage that allowed him to move his family from the near Northwest side of Chicago out to the Southwestern suburbs. Unfortunately, he also had a pretty severe problem with his hearing, which I imagine was part heredity, from his mother, and part environmental, from WWII and his profession. Unfortunately, I inherited hearing issues which were also likely exacerbated by the home's loud television and by rock and roll. Later in life as his workload decreased and and he got hearing aids, he actually became a lot more chatty than he had ever been when younger.

My father-in-law, Fred, was much different. He was educated and a professional. He had a heavy burden as his wife dealt with many health issues all her adult life (similar to my own mother who struggled with terrible depression), he had a mentally and physically handicapped son, and a few more kids than my own father. Fred was an extremely extremely pious man and amazed me at how he could keep his cool under the most trying of circumstances. One of his daughters had severe psychological issues and pretty much wrote off her whole family. The compassion that Fred showed toward the wayward daughter had a profound impact on me and on realizing how I could become a better father.

Throughout my world, I know several men who are outstanding fathers. I would start naming some, but I don't want to leave anyone out. These gentlemen are indeed the cream of the crop.

As for myself, this past long weekend was kind of my personal fatherhood weekend as my wife was away on a trip to Israel. This is actually the first time since the late 1980's that I have been alone at home for as long as two weeks. Things were a little quiet around the house except for our two dogs and our cat. However, I heard from my oldest daughter on Thursday afternoon. She was excited to tell me that she didn't realize that her car was paid up until she saw two months of payments sitting in her checking account. We talked quite a bit and before I hung up, and somehow I got talking about the trip to Maui that my wife and I took about 15 months ago. I said, "I'm sure we told you, but I unfortunately drank too many Mai Tais too fast on our whale watching excursion. I couldn't even walk off the boat by myself and had to be helped off. Your mother was pretty pissed off at me, sat me at a picnic table on shore, and went shopping in the nearby shopping center while I snoozed." My daughter started laughing hysterically and yelled "NO - I NEVER HEARD THAT STORY BEFORE. WHY DO YOU TELL ME THE SAME OLD BORING ONES WHEN YOU HAVE ONES LIKE THIS?" Needless to say, our conversation end ended with us both smiling. I suppose her was much bigger than mine.

On Friday morning, I called my son, who was anticipating being let go from his job in a morning online meeting. It was mostly to give him some emotional support (which he usually gets from his mom and did the night before), and to give him some suggestions  on what to say if he was being let go so that he would come off as best he could. He found out that he was indeed being laid off, but with a generous severance package, all for a job he's actually glad to see end. We were able to process the meeting afterward, and as always, I reminded him that when he was young and angry, that he told me that he would spit on my grave when I die. Although neither of us mentioned it, we both remember that my response was "You'd better die first, otherwise I will piss on yours." 😛

Finally, I decided that I should call my youngest child today. She has been struggling in many ways lately, and had us quite scared a few weeks ago. However, an adjustment in her meds did wonders for her. She had been asking for some money to help pay for a hotel room for a convention she wants to attend. Although angry at the way she had recently treated my wife and I (maybe the first time ever that she had been mean to ME), I remembered that lesson that I mentioned earlier -- the one I had learned from my father-in-law. My daughter sounded great and it was like things were back the way they have been most of her life. For that, I am extremely thankful.

As a dog and cat dad, I have tons of fun with my pets and they get lots of love ... and treats. Thank goodness they are here for me to talk with since my wife is gone.

On a final note before this day ends ... Happy 99th birthday, Dad! Although you left us almost 19 years ago, you are definitely not forgotten. Thanks for all the love you showed and for helping to make me the person I am today. 💓

Thanks for reading!


Blogger The Poker Meister said...

Great post! You (and your wife) undoubtedly did an excellent job with your kids! I've taken some lessons from your past writing and applied them to my parenting skills as well - particularly dealing with your son's medical issues that are thankfully behind him!

9:22 PM  
Blogger Ace said...

Wonderful post. Our son will be four this year and it's a different world with children. I've read plenty of opinions from guys about having/not having kids over the years. Seinfeld had a funny skit on this topic, check out the first minute of the video below,

3:26 PM  

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