Father of the Year
From the short story collection, 'Once Upon'
Sometime in June, the local newspaper will announce the Father of the Year: a dubious honor bestowed upon a man who has been nominated by his family. I have no idea who the judges are, or what qualifications are needed to judge the fatherhood of any other man.
For the record, I have never been nominated. Probably my abhorrence for such trivial nonsense was a clue to my offspring, not to nominate me.
For all intents and purposes, I was a horrible father. I traveled. Often, I was gone for 30 days at a time. Sometimes my family did not know where I had traveled to, nor (in my wife’s words) did they want to know. Oh, I occasionally flew my family to wherever I might be, but, for the most part, when our sons were asked what their father did for a living, they just replied, “he travels.”
During the middle school years, one rather pushy person insisted that my second son put “Father’s Occupation” down on a form. My son asked me what to write. I told him to put down “registered pond scum.” He did. So, today, somewhere in the records of an organization in North Atlanta, they now have an occupational listing for “registered pond scum.”
Last year’s pictures of the Father of the Year showed a middle-aged man on a jet ski. I took my oldest son to Promise Keepers—hmmm, guess we missed some of the recreational opportunities. The year before last featured a man with three generations of college graduates. Well, I sat with all my kids in confirmation class, and was with them at their baptisms. Two have graduated from college, so far. One other attends sporadically, as their job allows. My multi-generational pictures today are of me babysitting my grandchildren. Not a mortarboard in sight.
One of last year’s nominees sent in pictures of his daughter holding up the head of a six-point buck. I never had a daughter, but I doubt that if I did, I would have taken her hunting. In 1969, I packed all of my hunting weapons in heavy oil, locked them in the gun cabinet, and lost the key on purpose. I have nothing against hunters; it’s just not my thing. My sons don’t hunt either, although they all have fired rifles in target ranges. So much for being a macho father. I guess I didn’t cut it.
Another nominee for Father of the Year was pictured in a father/son business. He was handing the keys over to his adult son. I could never do that. I spent all my money helping with down payments on my kid’s homes, and an occasional “dad” loan or two. Two sons and I bought a restaurant once, a wonderful boutique pizza place. Unfortunately, a major discount pizza restaurant opened nearby, and we quickly lost everything and were forced to close. I lost $150,000 in the deal.
A few years ago, a man who I greatly admired was given the award. I even went to the banquet. There were many speeches in his honor. I even felt honored because I knew him as a friend. He was a great father. There will be no banquets for me. The closest things we have are family dinners with our sons gathered around. Of course, now we have added eight grandchildren to the audience, plus assorted mothers. When we go to church together, we occupy a whole section. Even now, with everyone scattered, with just those local relatives, we take up a whole pew. Church dinners with the family are a blast. I guess I did get an award one Wednesday evening—everyone sang happy birthday to me.
Like I said, I’m not much of a father. I’ll never be Father of the Year. However, my three sons never got into drugs, never spent time in detention, and never hung with the crowd who caused a lot of trouble. Just good kids.
One son is now a manager in a steel building company, another son is a mediator with a social services agency, and the other son is a manager in a major corporation.
I guess, sometimes, even we guys who are pond scum and failures as fathers get by with a little help from the Lord.