Back in the days of semi-adulthood, after college but before having kids of our own, quite a few of my peers went to “therapy”. Maybe it was a New York or an L.A. thing, or perhaps it was a rite of passage. For whatever reasons, I never partook.
From what I heard about it, the big breakthrough that these people got from the therapists’ couches wasn’t particularly shocking. The young women learned that the seeds of all their “issues” were sown by their mothers. The men found out that all of their baggage came from dear old Dad.
I’m sure that my naive synopsis shortchanged the practitioners of psycho-therapy by quite a few doubloons. At the time though, it seemed silly to hire some therapist to give me a pearl of wisdom which my friends had already paid for and leaked to me for free. Besides, even without the second-hand head-shrinking, I would have likely named my father as the prime suspect. He’d been there from the start, after all, and I’d watched his every move. Regardless, I didn’t need therapy, because I was certain that I was a well adjusted, sane person – or so I thought.
When he’d wrestle on the floor with my three brothers and me, Dad was hopelessly outnumbered but still tried to trap us as we squealed and screamed. My mother would stand to the side wringing her hands, frightened and mystified by these displays of male rough housing. No matter how hard he seemed to try to hold onto us, we’d wriggle loose. After a moment of relishing our freedom, we’d jump back into the fray, hoping he’d grab us again.
Dad was there somewhere on the crowded sidelines in the seasons of the games we played. He might not have been the loudest parent, but we’d often find out after the game how closely he’d watched. He was never the parent who badgered coaches or campaigned for more playing time. He let us find our roles on the field without interfering.
Our family was different then others. My parents have always been “theater folk”. While other Moms and Dads listened to Sinatra or The New Christy Minstrels, my parents preferred original cast recordings of “Brigadoon” or “Man of La Mancha”. I don’t recall any efforts on their parts to be like other parents, no matter how much we might have wished they would. My mother was prone to belting out a show tune a’ la Ethel Merman, at the drop of a hat. This isn’t a Mothers Day post however, so I’ll put that topic on a back burner.
It’s difficult to write about my father without including my mother. To this day, they are so intertwined in my mind that they seem to be a single entity. As I type these words, they’re likely finishing up their sleep and ready to start another day together – caring for their latest dog and communicating telepathically from one recliner to the other. For some reason, I just recalled a period when they used to kiss every night as we all sat down to dinner. My brothers and I would recoil in revulsion at this icky display of affection, but they did it anyway.
He taught in the high school we attended, and my brothers and I got to experience him at work. I didn’t appreciate at the time how few children get to see their fathers in their work environments. For many of my peers, the occasional company picnic was about the extent of seeing Dad at work.
Rose colored recollections are all well and good on Fathers Day, but as I noted earlier, I am not without my issues.
As a father myself for nearly three decades, I have no shortage of things which gnaw at me. Did I love my children outwardlyly enough for them to know? Did I do everything I could for them? Did I put too much effort into providing for them at the cost of being present? Did I set bad examples or no example at all? Did I do a good job?
I can’t say for certain what the answers are. If I’ve failed in some regard as a parent, I don’t suppose there’s much I can do to rewrite any chapters of ancient history.
I think again of my own Dad, and I wonder if he ever had questions and doubts like mine. I don’t see any shortcomings in him. I was lucky enough to have been one of his sons, and blessed to be able to tell him so as I wish him a happy Fathers Day.
I guess that’s therapy enough for me.