Up to a Point

The Ridiculousness of Father's Day

Dodge a concussion, smile at Meatloaf Surprise, and of course open your wallet. What are fathers supposed to do for Father’s Day anyway?

06.15.14 10:45 AM ET

Oh! joy unbounded, bliss divine. A holiday for being a dad—who’d like a holiday from it.

Mother’s Day memorializes sentiment. Everyone is sentimental about Mother, even if we don’t treat her very well. It’s feelings that count with Mom. And we all feel she’s a great old gal even if she’s getting a little batty.

How we feel about Dad is different. First he’s big and kind of scary, then he’s admirable, then less admirable, then not admirable at all and bossy and tight-fisted, after which he’s intrusive, not as intrusive, and briefly admirable again before becoming worrying, pathetic, and dead.

When Dad is dead we get sentimental. So what we should have is “Dead Father’s Day.”

But we don’t. We have a day that memorializes… What? Duty, responsibility, and expense. Or, in increasingly wide socio-economic swaths of America, loose sperm.

What are fathers supposed to do on Father’s Day? Maybe we should march in lock-step down Fifth Avenue wearing our business suits, carrying baggage full of other people’s bricks, and stop every 50 paces to hand out $20 bills. Or, alternatively, we could run away scot-free down Fifth Avenue and pause now and then to inseminate someone.

Not that I don’t love being a father. And a husband. [Note to editor: Previous two sentences inserted for sake of a quiet life. Hackneyed, but please do not delete. Further note to editor: Delete bracketed notes to editor.] But how Father’s Day at my house goes is…

Breakfast in Bed!…”

Courtesy of 10-year-old son, Buster, who is still in the childhood stage of admiring me but also still in the childhood stage of the sleep cycle, meaning he wakes up at 6:30 sharp.

Buster can break eggs into a skillet and has done it a number of times this morning. He is, however, obedient about not turning on the stove burner without permission. The eggs are runny. He’s allowed to use the toaster. He enjoys seeing the toast pop up.  By the look of the toast I would say he’s enjoyed seeing these two pieces pop up half a dozen times apiece. But he’s found a tray. On it are balanced a plate of eggs and toast, an open quart jar of grape jelly, and a beer mug full to the brim with orange juice.

Shhh” I say, “Mommy is still WATCH OUT!!! Oh, shit, Honey, I’m sorry about your new white Donna Karan bedspread. And your hair.”

Buster says, “Because it’s Father’s Day, you and me can do…”

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Anything You Want…”

Meaning he wants me to take him to the batting cage. To Buster, I’m admirable. How long until I’m less admirable? A year? Six months? Tonight, if I don’t take him to the batting cage?

Being admired, this is no time to let it slip that Dad is an utter sports nullity. My idea of athletic equipment is three aces.

“What sports teams were you on when you were a kid?” Buster asks often. He’s on our quaint New England town’s “Blue Stockings” Little League team, the church-sponsored “Kicking Choir” soccer team, the “New Hampshire Guernseys” Pop Warner football team, the “Mt. Barntop Speed Bumps” ski team, and, for all I know, he’s coxswain on the U.S. Olympic rowing team.

I was, for a very short time, on a track team. My high school more or less insisted that everyone play some sport. I chose track because there seemed to be a lot of hanging around at track and field events. I was the only person in high-school history to be lapped in a mile race on a quarter-mile track.

Happy Fathers Day!

Says my wife, returning from the shower be-robed, towel-turbaned, and still smelling faintly of not-made-from-concentrate. She hands me an envelope from the dresser top. “I enrolled you in a Yoga for Seniors class.”

Buster and I depart for the batting cage. Baseballs come toward my son at the speed of his 16-year-old sister who just got her driver’s license. Buster swings for the fences. Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! Whack! “Your turn, Dad!”

“Hey!” I yell at the pimpled young jerk running the concession, “That was right at my face!…  Goddammit, where are my glasses?”

“Want me to dial it to Slow Pitch Girls Softball?” asks the pimpled young jerk. I find my glasses and look at Pimples over the rims with my best grounded-for-life glare. I get a single pop fly from the mechanism’s languid tosses.

“That’s OK, Dad,” says Buster, “I struck out once. Last season.”

Were Fixing You a Special Fathers Day Lunch!

My teenage daughters, Poppet (13), and Muffin (with the driver’s license) are awake and in the kitchen.

“It’s kale with non-dairy nutritional yeast cheese on a gluten-free burrito,” says Muffin who is, this week, vegan.

“And cookies!” says Poppet.

Poppet’s recipe: Dump a one pound bag of sugar into a half cup of milk and bake until the smoke alarm goes off.

Muffin says, “I saw these awesome socks online, the same ones Jay Z wears, to get you for a Father’s Day present, but I didn’t have your credit card to order them.”

Poppet says, “I made this for you in Arts and Crafts class.” We won’t go into descriptive detail. Every experienced parent knows the chilling phrase, “I made this for you in Arts and Crafts class.” And Poppet is a girl with a sharp eye and a long memory. The thing will have to be displayed prominently for several weeks until “the cleaning lady broke it.”

Anything You Want, Part II

“Better hurry up and change clothes, kids,” says my wife.

I ask, “Change clothes for what?”

My wife says, “It’s Father’s Day so I called my father and told him, ‘We can do anything you want.’”

“What did he want to do?”

“Go to 3 o’clock Mass.”

Father Mulligan, a fit and hearty priest, gives a homily on how “Being a Dad Is Like Being at Bat” with new things coming at you all the time, some slow but tricky, some so quick we can hardly see them. This teaches us about the duty and responsibility of being in the batter’s box of parenthood.

Father Mulligan doesn’t mention the expense. The second collection—for missionaries in Crimea—takes care of that.

Your Favorite Dinner!…”

Advice to husbands: Be exceedingly careful about overdoing it with the diplomatic praise for your spouse’s, let’s say, for example, Meatloaf Surprise. Especially when the surprise is that it’s made from textured soy protein instead of ground beef so your vegan daughter will eat it.

And We Have Something Special for You From All of Us…”

A bottle of The Glenlivet, aged in the cask longer than Poppet and Buster put together. Turns out, after all, to be a red-letter day or, that is, a brown-liquid evening. My favorite chair for once unoccupied by child or Lego construction. And consent given to smoke a cigar—the Havana I’ve been saving—indoors.

The sun sets and my mind grows expansive. Why stop at Father’s Day? Why not…

Mothers Working Two Jobs Day

A 24-hour moratorium on robbing convenience store late shifts.

Brother-In-Laws Day

Buy him a sofa and maybe he’ll quit living on yours.

Uncle Daddys Day

To celebrate mom’s live-in boyfriend. Tattoos and piercings for the kids.  And to hell with Uncle Daddy.

Dog Days

Just some afternoons in August with a lot of meat involved. Much like an ideal Father’s Day. Dads do bark a lot. “You’re not going out of the house dressed like that, young lady!” We sniff around. “Do I smell pot smoke in the garden shed?!” We chase squirrels (the Dow). We’re always wanting to be fed (maybe steak next time). And petted (you know what I mean).  And we love to go to sleep in my favorite chair. I do.