As a child, I imagined June was my brother’s month — he was born June 18. When I grew up, my wife and I chose the solstice, June 21 for our front porch wedding day, and I was rewarded with Father’s Day. Sometimes, like 2020, they fall on the same day. (My brother sometimes gets Father’s Day on his birthday.)
We didn’t get a honeymoon. A decade later, we went to apply for jobs with the Bureau of Indian Education in northwest New Mexico, so our 10th anniversary was in romantic Santa Fe. Our 20th anniversary we visited another romantic getaway, Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and we decided to buy a place in the country here.
Twelve years later, the kids are all growed up, and mother-in-law, the last survivor of our parents, lives with us. In the age of coronavirus, no romantic vacations call us. We worked on fixing lawn mowers and weedeaters, and then applying them to their work.
We did housekeeping chores, watered gardens. My wife harvested garlic, balanced the books, did laundry. Our romantic anniversary dinner was grilled veggies, tuna and shrimp, with tomatoes, okra, pickles and giant olives on the side.
We heard from our three kids, and I reminded them all that I would not be a dad without children, and I would not have kids without their mom. Father’s Day should be called Family Day. It thrills me when our oldest wishes me Happy Father’s Day and Happy Anniversary, because she has a different father, who died tragically from a sudden cancer in his forties, after he and her mom had divorced.
We had some rough times when she was a teenager — as I did with the two for whom I am the birth father — but as self-sufficient adults they are such a pleasure to be with; they are smart, vibrant, creative, fun and funny, sophisticated, politically aware, philosophical. Where did we go right?
I wander back through the memory bank… Christmases, birthdays, sleepover parties, picnics, barbecues, crawfish boils, trips to the beach, the zoo, museums, libraries, bookshops; cross-country trips to Spokane, Grand Canyon, Great Salt Lake, Mammoth Cave, Carlsbad Caverns, Canada, Washington, DC. Cornball side trip photo ops at Four Corners, Texarkana, and Paisano Pete, the giant roadrunner statue in Fort Stockton, Texas –the original Dad joke.
For several summers we played “Cuban Rules Softball” with friends and neighbors, a game for all ages, all ability levels, both sexes, all races. I liked to pitch, and no children or awkward adults were allowed to strike out, even if it took 15 pitches to hit their bat with the ball.
Variously they had ballet, piano, Little League baseball, basketball, interracial soccer; middle- and high school clubs, tournaments, competitions; band, jazz band, overseas regional band trips to London and Paris; Magic Cards; high school and college plays.
The two eldest gave triumphant valedictory addresses at their Gallup High School graduations; the youngest lost that privilege by percentage points but gave her speech for the UNM Honors College when she graduated there. All three earned university scholarships, but she additionally earned a salary as a resident assistant. Where did we go right?
Early on I built them a sandbox for Father’s Day, and one year a stepstool, so they could reach the bathroom sink. I intended to give them something for Father’s Day every year, but you know how that goes… I received a barbecue smoker, Daffy Duck necktie, and other gifts I don’t recall.
We were fortunate: we planned to have children, and did, with no difficulty. My only regret is that my mom never got to meet my wife and children.
Some men become fathers unwittingly, or irresponsibly — it’s all about sex. Some couples have sex but no children. With modern technology, gay couples or infertile people can still make babies, or adopt. For people who want it, planned parenthood is a joy and a responsibility.
Some genius said the best example a father can provide is to love his spouse. I didn’t become a father until age 32, over half my life ago. 34 years of marriage is even longer. Happy Family day to all.