Sunday, June 21, 2015

Pater: a Father's Day memory...

Pater: a Father's Day memory...  Of course my thoughts today kept wandering to memories of my dad.  At one point I tried to remember any Father's Day with him, and I wasn't having much luck.  My dad wasn't the sort to celebrate a “holiday” like that, nor am I for that matter.  But one memory finally did pop up – something I hadn't recalled for many, many years now.

I can't place the year exactly, but it would have been when I was about 13 or 14 years old – so something like '65 or '66.  It was a weekday before Father's Day, I think a Friday (because Father's Day was imminent).  I was working with my dad at the home of a landscaping customer, somewhere in northern New Jersey.  The customer's name was Deer (or maybe Deere), a couple with at least one child, a young girl perhaps 17 or 18 years old.

My dad was working in the front of the house, and I was spreading mulch down in the back yard, near a pool house.  The girl (whose name I've long since forgotten) came down to go swimming.  Before she went in to change, she stopped to talk with me for a few minutes.  I remember that she asked me what we were going to do for Father's Day, and I said “Nothing special.  We’ll all be home on Sunday, as usual.”

“Does your father work on Sunday?”, she asked.

“Usually in his office, or maybe at the nursery.” I said.  “But we’ll probably play some croquet or something in the afternoon.”

We really did play croquet on occasion, and other sorts of games both indoors and outside.

“My father always works at his office in town every day.  We hardly ever see him.” she said.  “You’re really lucky to be with your father all the time!”

That last sentence was accompanied by an expression of the purest envy.

If I remember correctly, her dad was a lawyer.  It was evident from the quality of his home that he made a great deal more money than my dad did.  I'd imagined, in the naive way of a child, that having all that money would make for some very happy kids.  I certainly wouldn't have minded having my own swimming pool!

But there was his daughter, envying me because I had something she couldn't have: what we'd call today quality time with my dad.

I know now that she was right to be envious.  Between work and play, I was with my father for more time in a year than most kids have in their entire childhood.  My dad was extremely accessible to me, as his work was either on the farm I grew up on or at customers' sites, where I was quite likely dragooned to help.  I had many, many hours of time with him driving to and from customers' sites – time we filled with conversation about all sorts of things.  Whether we were on the road or at home on the farm, he'd frequently take a few minutes to show me something interesting, or to explain something I was curious about.  This was my “everyday dad”, and I only realized how unusual that was when I joined the U.S. Navy and met people with very different experiences of their father (or, all to often, no experience at all because they never knew him).

Yup, she was right to be envious.  I was a lucky kid indeed to have the father I did...

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