Ah, Father’s Day-that day when fathers everywhere feel guilty about being grumpy for the entire previous year, or maybe that’s just me. I always feel strange on father’s day. I don’t feel like I’ve done anything to deserve all of the praise and honor that comes with it. My main goal as a father is to keep everyone from crying and to get as much sleep as possible. If any celebration is in order, it’s for what I’ve managed to avoid, rather than anything I’ve done.
Becoming a father for the first time is like being handcuffed to an especially complicated and sensitive time bomb without an instruction manual. The object is to keep it running and, at the same time, keep it from destroying you and everything you hold dear. Then, if you have another child, you’re cuffed to yet another time bomb, only this one can be set off if it gets too close to the one you already have. I think most reasonable people stop with two time bombs because they have two hands. For me, that would have been too easy. I now have them cuffed to each wrist and one balanced on my head.
This year, my Father’s Day began with complete exhaustion. I had spent the night before sleeping (or trying to sleep) beside a young frolicking deer (complete with antlers). My daughter Abbie (whose body consists completely of pointy bones) was unable to settle down in her own bed, so she decided to get in bed with my wife and me-and practice mixed martial arts in her sleep. This didn’t matter to my slumbering wife, who could sleep through lunch duty in a junior high cafeteria, but I tend to be a light sleeper, so I felt every spinning back fist. When she wasn’t piercing my spleen with her kneecap, she was plastered against my body like a sweaty Band-Aid.
When we all finally drug our carcasses out of bed to go to church, which, for some reason, still takes place before noon, I was feeling less than festive. I wasn’t the least bit interested in Father’s Day-Father’s Evening or Father’s Late Night, maybe. The Father’s Day ritual included gathering everyone together and rushing through a battery of compulsory photographs and gift openings as quickly as possible so as to avoid being late for church and incurring the wrath of God. We usually succeed in avoiding God’s wrath, but not everyone else’s. Someone always gets upset during these endless photo sessions. This time, it was my middle daughter, Anna, who was impeded from joining me for our photograph by a pile of laundry and was accused (by me) of being intentionally sluggish. Had it been a celebration in her honor, I was certain she could vault over that laundry pile faster than Donald Trump’s comb-over in a typhoon. This unpleasantness (which was entirely my fault) and the forced smiles that ensued are probably why we all look like our teeth itch in the photos.
Amid the anguish of mandatory photography and gifting, I soon realized that I was receiving morbid obesity for Father’s Day this year. My wife and children bestowed upon me king sized Almond Joy and Payday bars (Is there any other size?), a package of PayDay Snack Bites, which is simply a king sized Payday bar cut up into portions to make eating the entire thing in one sitting faster, and a miniature fruitcake from the Collin Street Bakery and Cholesterol Distribution Center. When I protested their evil plan, my wife assured me that I could just eat a little at a time, and it would be ok. I did manage to spread it out over the course of a whole hour.
After church we took fried chicken over to my mom and dad’s house for lunch (because we are into the whole clean eating thing). My dad always said that the best present I could give him would be a “good leavin’ alone,” but I try to do something for him on Father’s Day each year to show my respect and gratitude for his not killing me with a Weed Eater when I was a teenager. I’m sure he considered it more than once. (I would have.) He was probably hoping for a youngest son who would be a great athlete, a captain of industry, or at least one who could tell a carburetor from a catcher’s mitt. Instead, he got an English major whose greatest talents include being able to eat an entire watermelon during a single rerun episode of the Andy Griffith Show. (I actually think he’s pretty proud of that one.)
It did turn out to be a great day, after all. We ate good food, spent time together as a family, and reminisced about the good ol’ days- before I learned to talk. I really am blessed that the Lord gave me a great father and great children. I just hope that my mixed martial arts lessons pay off, and I can get some sleep.