The Ever Changing Father’s Day
Father’s Day is upon us, and it was always one of my favorite days of the year. Right up there with 4th of July, Patriots Day (if you live in Massachusetts) with the Boston Marathon and an afternoon Red Sox game, and of course New Year’s Day (mostly due to the Three Stooges marathon.)
Growing up, it meant a Sunday with my parents and sisters, usually spent at Nantasket Beach, a BBQ in the backyard, making some homemade cards to give to my Dad and watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and then the Sunday Night Disney movie. It was a day that my Dad would sit with the Sunday Boston Globe, while my Mom made eggs which we’d have with bagels, lox and my Dad’s favorite – herring. A present for him may have been washing his car, trimming the hedges or mowing the lawn….at least I would promise to mow the lawn, not sure I ever actually did.
Then, as I grew up and had a family of my own, Father’s Day changed a bit. I would now start each Father’s Day with a long run. The handmade cards continued but now they were to me from my kids. There would be good breakfasts, family-filled activities and promises of them doing some chores, which, just like me with my Dad, never really happened.
My Father passed away in 2001, the same year my youngest son was born. And Father’s Day took yet another turn. It was somewhat of a somber day for me. While I still loved the time with my kids, I was reminded of my Dad. Now Father’s Days included a stop at his gravesite to visit him.
While Father’s Day always reminded me of my Dad, I began to think of it not as sad that he was gone, but as a time to remember all the things that made him who he was. It became an excuse to talk about him and to reminisce about all the good stuff. I loved thinking about him telling dirty jokes, working in the garden, driving my Mom around for her errands, listening to Yiddish music, or taking us to the beach.
When I got divorced Father’s Day changed yet again. The timing of that coincided with my kids being campers and counselors at their overnight camp in Maine. My oldest son was no longer around on Father’s Day because he had to go to camp early as a counselor. It has been just my youngest and me for the past three Father’s Days. At first it felt like having a corned beef sandwich without Gulden’s Spicy Brown mustard, something was just missing. My youngest would come to watch me and the other old guys play softball in the morning, then either play tennis, hit some golf balls, and play Xbox. We end the day my making dinner and hopefully watching a sports game (probably a playoff game as after all this is Boston.) Despite missing both my oldest son and my Dad, the times with my youngest were special and unforgettable.
This year is yet another change, and one I’ve been fearing for a while now. Both kids are now camp counselors and will be leaving before Father’s Day, so now not only is my Dad not here but neither are either of my kids.
I’m looking forward to Father’s Day this year as much as I’m looking forward to when Brady & Belichick retire. I’ve been anticipating this holiday with a bit of cynicism and stress, not sure how I will feel without my kids. And, while I have wonderful people in my life to spend time with, they are not my kids or my Dad.
I am realizing what Father’s Day is really all about. It is not about celebrating me, but rather a time to celebrate what an honor and privilege it is to be a dad and a son. It’s a day to reflect on the past and anticipate the wonderful things still to come. My being a father is a priceless gift that overshadows divorce and a day without my kids.
I want my boys to know that if they are off in Maine, Indiana, Amherst or simply busy with their lives, that I will always do my best to be an attentive, aware and present. And supportive as they spread their wings and forge their own path in life.
Just like I do with my Dad, I will celebrate all the fantastic memories with my boys, and that they have grown into polite, respectful and smart young men. I am also going to reinvent new traditions with them, and even if it’s just a phone call (hopefully a phone call and not just a text.) I am still going to go for my run, play softball, and in homage to my Dad, probably tell an inappropriate joke or two.
And I will keep in mind that the day is a celebration of how truly special it means to be a Dad, and that my kids being away or my Dad being gone can’t change that. That is why I am looking forward to Father’s Day.
Scott lives in Needham, just a few miles from where he grew up in Newton, and is the proud father of teenage boys. When not working, Scott can be found doing something to do with sports, either playing basketball or softball, watching a game on TV or in the past, coaching his kids. He also enjoys lifting weights and running, having finished 8 Boston Marathons. Scott enjoys a well chilled extra dry martini, and likes to cook, considering himself a nacho connoisseur.