Life is filled with metaphorical peaks and valleys. Inevitably, we all face those sacred moments in time that lift us to great heights, or sink us into seemingly endless despair. When we face these times, the natural inclination is to find something, anything really, that is consistent — that we know will always be there, and that can either lift us up from the bottom, or keep our heads level when we reach the top.
For me, that’s historically been my father.
It would be easy to just sit back right now and ramble on about all the good times we’ve shared, and the lessons he taught me through his infamous lectures and parables that never seemed to make sense. And, for the most part, it would be true. My father and I share a relationship that is almost the model for dads and their sons — we’ve spent plenty of time throughout my life as buddies, but there was never any doubt who was in charge. That’s the perfect recipe, right?
And I could go on and on about all the time we spent together watching the Baltimore Orioles or University of Maryland teams, or the way we would get all excited when we’d rent a “Dirty Harry” movie. That would be easy, right?
But it doesn’t really sum up the relationship accurately. Oh, those things happened, and still do to this day. The day before I wrote this piece the two of us were going back and forth in e-mail about Maryland’s basketball team, and the struggles they’re facing with their current recruiting class. But as anybody who’s ever had a father or son knows, there’s much more to this relationship than just the good times.
So I ultimately struggled with just how to go about writing this Father’s Day piece. Do I just write about how much I love the guy and thank him for all he’s done for me? Or do I take a different route and write about the importance parents have over their children’s lives and sprinkle in some personal antecdotes regarding my father?
I decided to just tell a story that I’m not particularly proud of — but that had a huge impact on my life.
I was a bit of a social butterfly in high school. If there was a party going on, I was pretty much there with my friends, and usually we were at the center of whatever was going on — good or bad. When I learned that my family was going to visit relatives for a weekend early one summer, I decided to have a little get-together at my parents’ home.
A lot of you are probably nodding your heads right now.
The original plan was to have about 10 people over that night. You know, a small circle of friends with their dates, a little underage drinking and everybody would just spend the night.
By about 9 p.m., my parents’ home was the epicenter of the biggest party the Washington, D.C. area had ever seen. Inaugurations didn’t get the kind of crowd we had there that night, and instead of being responsible and throwing everyone out or calling the police to break it up, yours truly simply joined in the fun and decided to worry about the mess the next day.
Well, the next day came with a bang.
Police officers were at my house early, and they had questions. There were questions about intoxicated kids wandering the neighborhood the night before, questions about the whereabouts of my car (long story) and questions as to some vandalism.
As an aside, I learned that day that police really like to be told the truth right away, and my day could have been a lot easier had we not skirted around the fact that there had been a party at my house the night before. Once they got the facts from us, they eased up quite a bit and told me they would be in contact with my parents later in the day, when they got back in town.
It gets worse.
The police had been there for a long time, and by the time they left, I was late for my summer job and had to hurry into work — without cleaning up the house from the party. Long story short, my parents got home before I did, they were not excited to see me when I got home and I spent the entire rest of the summer confined to the house — often on the receiving end of the “stinky eye” from my mother.
It was not a moment to be proud of, but I learned a few things about my father at that time. First, he has a tremendous left hook (kidding!). Second, he had the ability to calm down after the first 94 hours of screaming at me to sit me down and tell me how stupid I was. He explained that he put his trust in me for a reason, and with one moronic weekend I had managed to put that trust in jeapordy for a long time.
He told me that he loved me, but he hated that I had no respect for my family’s home. And he told me about a few of the dumb things he had done growing up, and that this incident wouldn’t ruin me forever — provided I learned a lesson.
I did learn that lesson, and many more over the years from him. He taught me about self-respect, respect for others and a general respect for life. Not to mention the lessons I learned about how to confuse the person you’re talking to with a personal story that didn’t quite make sense. I mean, what in the world ...
But I digress.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks for the education.