I called my dad this past Sunday morning to wish him a happy Father’s Day. In the conversation, after he wished me the same I told him that my oldest bought the ingredients to make me an Old Fashioned as an early Father’s Day gift. He laughed and said “You know you’re getting old when your kids are buying you booze.” I laughed about it as well, as I bought him a bottle of 15-year old single malt scotch for his 70th birthday. But it kept echoing in my head, at least the “You know you’re getting old” part.
Father’s Day has always sort of felt like one of those “Hallmark”-created occasions, much like Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and maybe even May the Fourth. I feel like if you’re a good “dad” all year round then just celebrate that throughout the year. I don’t know. It sounds curmudgeonly, but I just feel like if everyone did their part(parents being good parents and kids appreciating said good parents) we wouldn’t have to dedicate one day out of the year pointing out the obvious(end rant.)
But as with most holidays, we do it for the kids. And for the last 21 years, I’ll admit, I’ve loved every homemade card, bag of M&Ms, cinnamon roll breakfast, and big hug I’ve ever gotten on Father’s Day. That curmudgeonly, anti-corporate party pooper inside of me takes a day-long nap on that Sunday in June so I can just savor those moments for what they are. At 47-years old and with my oldest being 21-years old and my other two kids not far behind her, they’re feeling pretty fleeting.
This Father’s Day felt sort of disjointed to me. Our two oldest both worked all day and after my wife spent a couple hours on one of the old desktop computers pulling ancient photos of our recent high school graduate off for her open house, she was kind of emotionally spent. Our son did his usual roll out of bed around noon thing, so it didn’t really feel much like Father’s Day. It just felt like another day in the life of parents inching closer to being empty nesters. The wife did offer to pick up Chinese for dinner, so there was that.
You’re probably thinking, “Hey, for a guy who doesn’t believe in those Hallmark holidays you sure are whining about it not being that great of a day.” True, but after so many years of them being a big deal I guess I just got used to it. I guess I enjoy a day of homemade cards and “What would you like for breakfast?” pampering. But I think the biggest kick in the teeth is realizing that my three kids are actually two adults and a 16-year old now. I’m having a hard time coming to that realization, and it’s kind of bumming me out.
The weight of my two daughters and son being so close to no longer being here on the regular is a lot to process. My son is asking more and more to hang out with his buddies, one of which is already driving. My girls have always had big friend groups and were always doing things with them. My son, though he had friends, always seemed to be a homebody. He was always here and I had a cohort to watch movies with or listen to records with while I cooked dinner. With him being gone more and more(and possibly only a day away from having his driver’s license), I’m feeling yet another milestone approaching. And with that, an era ending. I’m happy he’s got pals to go to the movies with(and maybe potentially form a band with), but damn it hurts letting go.
And our middle child, the recent high school graduate, she moves to college August 25th. We’ve been in the midst of planning a half-ass open house for her. Her mom and I aren’t social butterflies. In fact, if we were butterflies we’d just as soon hang out in the chrysalis and avoid people altogether. But because we don’t want this moment in our daughter’s life to be a main topic of discussion in future therapy sessions, we’re doing our best to make it a pleasant day for her. We’re having finger foods and a cake, and setting up hammocks and chairs in the front yard so her and her friends can hang out. We’re trying, anyways.
And our oldest, she starts her senior year of college in August. She’s the most adult out of all of them. She lived in New York on her own for three months, and she’s going to Japan for school for a couple weeks in winter term. She bought me booze for Father’s Day(along with some great records and the Tim and Eric movie), so there’s that. She’s been pretty much out of the house since she was 16-years old anyways. She did her junior and senior years of high school away from home. We’ve been practicing the kids moving on thing with her for five years now, so you think with the other two it’d be a cake walk.
Everything is changing and everyone is moving on. It’s hard not to feel left behind, despite how ridiculous that sounds. I’ve been their main provider for 21 years; be it buying groceries, cooking dinners, being their Lyft to school functions and friends houses, being that stable figure in their lives telling them they’re doing good and that it’ll be okay, or just being there when they need an ear to listen. While it’s not gone away, that role has diminished greatly. I’m having a hard time figuring out what the hell to do with myself.
But after a particularly lost day yesterday and a sleepless night, I woke up to a homemade card, a bag of M&Ms, and a hat to cover my bald head all from my recent graduate. I won’t say what’s in the card, as that’s between her and I, but I’ll just say I feel a little less lost now.
If you’re a father, hope you had a good Father’s Day. And if he’s around, make sure you let your dad know you’re thinking of him. He may be a curmudgeon, too, but even curmudgeons appreciate a homemade card.
At least once a year, anyways.