Tuesday, June 9, 2009
He Called me Dad
Back in January, I took my 14 year old to the movies. We were in the self-serve soda section, (which is preposterous, if I'm gonna pay $4.50 for a soda, they ought to fill it for me) when I heard a voice say, "Hey, Dad, do you need a straw?"
It hit me like a bolt out of the blue.
He called me Dad.
I cocked my head and looked at my son, much like that quizzical Jack Russell Terrier looks into the antique speaker on those old RCA Victor ads for record players. Thoughts began to pour into my head. Thoughts about how this person is my charge. For now, this human being belongs to me. It reminded me of that old George Carlin riff from the HBO special, "Playin' with Your Head" about claiming lost children: "That's mine, the tall one with the hair."
And I got a little teary with pride. Where was this coming from? I looked straight into the eyes of my greatest gift and considered those poor orphans of gutless turds who beat on them and their mothers. Fatherhood is not a right, it's a privilege. I felt like a lucky man. I thought about that guy walking his dog who gives my son and I the occasional odd look as we're strolling down the street. Maybe I don't have a booger on my face after all, maybe he's looking at me that way, just wishing he had a son to saunter down the road with. That lucky feeling expanded.
My kid handed me the straw and I looped my arm around his shoulder as we strolled into the theatre together. I wish I could label that feeling. It was somewhere between pride and absolute boundless joy. One of the great "quiet" moments in my life.
Oddly enough the movie we were set to see was "Gran Torino". Not only an incisive look at racial tolerance, but a pretty heady look at the negative gap that can grow between fathers and kids, and the dissonance it can create.
I felt even prouder still as the movie unspooled.
So when you wake up the weekend of June 21st and realize it's Father's day, yes, you should call your Dad. Maybe visit him and bring him a little something. Be sure to do yourself a favor as well.
Look into the mirror for a couple of minutes closely and say the words "He called me Dad." Think about how it makes you feel.
Pretty damn nice, isn't it.