It was wonderful when they were young. All of those little people running around the house, jumping on my bed to wake me up, screaming “happy father’s day, daddy”. The cards they made for me at school, big red hearts glued to the front, with illegible hand writing telling me how much they loved me. Tie dyed tee shirts that they had made after taking my white tee shirts from my dresser drawer, which I wore proudly. As I, and the kids aged, the celebration took on a very different feel. This year was no different.
“The kids want to know what you want for father’s day.”, my wife informed me.
“Nothing.”, I answered.
“They’re going to get you something.”, she said, “so we may as well tell them what you want.” I thought long and hard.
“I would like to be left alone.”, I replied.
“What does that mean?”, my wife asked.
“I just want to drink a few beer and watch the ball game.”, I told her.
“Well that’s not going to happen.”, she advised me. “They’re all coming down for brunch.”
“When is brunch?”, I asked her.
“They will be here about 11.”, I was told.
“And when are they leaving?”. I inquired.
“I don’t know.”, she stated. “Does it matter?”
“Well”, I pointed out, ” they usually don’t leave until the evening. That’s not brunch. I don’t mind that they’re hear for brunch, but if they come at 11, why can’t they leave by 1 0r 2. Why do they have to stay until 8 or 9? It stops being brunch if they’re here for another meal.”
‘They want to spend time with you.”, she added.
“Then they could take me to the ball game.”, I responded.
“No one wants to go to the game.”, I was told.
“I do.”, I said.
“They’re coming here for brunch. They want to know what you want for father’s day.”, she continued.
“Okay.”, I answered. “I want them to leave by 1 or 2.”
“You’re being difficult.”, she stated in that tone that is designed to let me know that she is not pleased with me. I didn’t think I was being difficult. If it was father’s day, what couldn’t I get what I wanted? I was pretty certain that I was being reasonable and rational.
When I woke on father’s day, there was no jumping on my bed, no hand mare cards, or tie dyed tee shirts. There were no little voices screaming out “happy father’s day, daddy.”
“Please behave.”, my wife pleaded, as she readied the house for the coming arrival of the prodigal children.
“I always do my best.”, I informed her. “I can’t do more than that.”
“Try.”, she advised me.
They started arriving at 10:30, holding bags hiding gifts, and store bought cards. My wife busied herself in the kitchen, getting out the food to feed the ravenous hoard that would soon invade my dining room. I certainly appreciated the thoughtfulness of the gifts each one brought, but to be honest, I really had no use for any of them. Oh, the rhubarb-watermelon flavored licorice was wonderful, but I really didn’t need another mug, or shirt. My daughter-in-law, the newest member of our family, brought beer. She has now earned a special place in my heart!
We ate, my now adult kids made s’mores, while I drank beer and watched the ball game. We talked about upcoming birthdays, vacation plans, and issues that had arisen in their living situations. We did not talk about Justin Smoak’s home run, or Estrada’s crappy 3rd inning. As diner time approached, the discussion turned to what we should eat.
“What would you like, daddy?”, someone asked. I hate that question. For the past 30 years or so it hasn’t mattered what I wanted, they always seemed to think they knew what I wanted more than I did.
“It doesn’t matter.”, I said, resigning myself to the inevitable outcome.
“Should we order in?”, my wife asked.
“Only if you have money to pay for it.”, I answered.
“What should we order?”, she added. I wasn’t sure what this had to do with me. Why did I always have to be involved in discussions in which they would really never let me have what I wanted. Not even on father’s day!
“Thai food.”, I replied.
“No one eats Thai food here except you.”, one of my daughters blurted out. “We’re not getting Thai food.” And there it went. I was certain that they were going to settle on one of two things: Pizza, or Swiss Chalet.
“Let’s just get pizza.”, one of my sons said. “Its the easiest.” And with that I heard Don Pardo speaking in my head. “Well, sir, for that correct answer, you have just won an all expense paid trip to anywhere away from your family for the remainder of the day.”
But we weren’t finished, no, we were far from done. “What do you want on the pizza.”, my wife asked.
“I’m good.”, I replied. “I’m not really hungry. I think I’m going to have go lay down soon. I think I may have had a few too many beers.”
“Do you want your surprise first?”, she asked. While I had hoped that it was going to be incredibly hot sex, I knew that it wasn’t going to happen, especially not with the kids around. “Its your favorite.”. she added, “Key Lime tart.” She was right, it was my favorite. I ate the tart, and was satisfied that it had been an okay father’s day. It was good to see all of the kids together, it generally doesn’t happen often enough. And to see them laughing, and getting along with each other, well, it made me realize that it isn’t really all that bad.
I went to lay down, after saying goodbye, and thanking them for the cards and wonderful gifts. My wife came into the bedroom shortly after to see if I was alright. “I’m fine.”, I told her.
“It was nice of the kids to come down. It was good to see them so happy.”, she told me, “You’re a good father.”
“Thank you.”, I answered. “I try my best.”
“I hope you had a good father’s day.”, she said. “And I hope that we can have everyone over again next year.”
“Okay.”, I answer. “But next year, I am giving each of them a white tee shirt and I want them to tie dye it for me.” She stood up and smiled.
“They will.”, she said. “They will.”