The lessons we learn from our dads
Father’s Day is, obviously enough, a day to celebrate fathers. We thank them for the sacrifices they’ve made, and generally make an effort to express our thanks to the men who reared us. We do it through cards, or brunch or a new hunting rifle, or whatever the most appropriate display of acknowledgement might be for each individual relationship.
For those of us who have lost our fathers, it is a time for reflection — to think back on those special moments that will forever occupy space in our minds. For those of us who still have our fathers, it is a time to reach out and just say thanks for the memories, and hope to put a smile on Dad’s face.
In the spirit of Father’s Day, I’ve gone back and made a list of the things in my life that I owe to my father’s lessons over the years.
• I learned through my father that baldness is in fact not passed along to men through their mother’s side, as many would have you believe. I can take a look back at a photo I have of me, my father and my grandfather. Bald, bald, bald. My mother’s side? Hair flowing like a BP oil spill.
• If you’re trying to get around on that inside fastball, you have to attack the pitch before it gets to home plate, and you have to turn your hips through your swing. Of course, I learned later on that if you attack that pitch and properly turn your hips, you can look a little foolish when the pitch heading your way actually turns out to be something other than a fastball. There was more than one occasion when I looked like I was trying to swat a fly with a piece of wet pasta, and ended up falling on my backside.
• When all else fails, grab a cliché out of the air and share it with a knowing nod, like it’s the most wise thing anybody has ever said. I remember getting dumped by my girlfriend when I was 16 and spending the next several days sulking around my bedroom. I was just certain that the suffering would never end, and my father came in one night to console me. “Pick yourself up,” he said. “You can do it. Your name is McCann — not McCan’t.” In a sense, it did work. I was no longer consumed with thoughts of lost love. My only thought at that time was hoping that I’d get adopted by a nice Honduran family who would take me to their home and far away from this bald man giving me advice.
• Make a list. Check it twice. Then make a list of all the lists you have to make. I get made fun of because of the lists I constantly make, and the fact that I can’t do anything in my life until the last item on the list has a check. Trust me. I get this honestly. When I was a kid I would often wake up on a beautiful summer morning and find a list on the table of stuff I had to do that day. That’s when I started making my own list. First item? Throw out Dad’s list. Second item? Throw out Dad’s back-up list.
• When watching sports, root for your team, but appreciate the game. I remember as a boy getting irritated with my father when he would gush over plays made by athletes on the “other” team. The word “traitor” went through my mind countless times. Now I find myself doing the same thing, and I have a greater appreciation for what these athletes do on their respective fields and courts. Of course, it helps that most of my teams stink on ice, and the only pleasure I derive from watching their games is seeing how good other teams and players can do when surrounded by competence ...
But I digress.
• A cigar and a glass of Irish whiskey is always a good combination. Yeah, it really is. Well done, big guy.
• Always respect the last name. My father would tell me that I had my grandfather’s last name, and I owed it to him to carry myself with a sense of honor. Of course, I would often look over at my grandfather, asleep on the couch with pretzel crumbs on his shirt and a re-run of “WKRP in Cincinnati” on the television, and think, “Yeah, I can preserve the name.”
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.