I’m counting on last autumn’s funeral to help me put Father’s Day in the proper perspective.
The day after Thanksgiving our beloved 14-year-old cat Mewsilla surrendered the last of her nine lives. My wife suggested that it would be a good father-son bonding experience if Gideon (now age eight) went up the hillside with me to bury Mewsilla.
Mewsilla really should have been euthanized a month earlier, but I selfishly tortured her with my attempts to turn back the hands of time and keep her around. My regrets hung in the air as we paid our final respects. My regrets, and the unspoken understanding that Gideon would probably someday have to pay his final respects to ME (hopefully not on an occasion that conflicted with Black Friday shopping).
Fast forward to Father’s Day 2012. It’s supposed to be a time for hand-wringing and moaning, “They grow up so FAST — and select neckties even faster!” (after all, Gideon’s toddlerhood is now a blur, he’s half old enough for a driver’s license and one-third old enough for a master’s degree); but I think the Mewsilla incident has taught me to take life with my little strawberry blonde one day at a time and cheerfully accept each new milestone.
There will be plenty of time later to deal with his first fender bender, his first broken heart, his first pink slip and the pangs of empty nest syndrome.
Right now I try not to become TOO exasperated with a boisterous extrovert who babbles his life story to total strangers, delivers a complimentary body slam with each hug, thinks an “indoor voice” means “indoors at the Metropolitan Opera” and assumes you’re respecting personal boundaries as long as you stop just short of an impromptu colonoscopy.
I’m tickled that he can still look at the $100 in his piggy bank and declare, “I’m rich.” (I’m less tickled that Uncle Sam can look at a $16 trillion debt and declare, “We’re rich!”)
I savor the innocence that lets him trust us when we announce “Bad word!” during a movie, or flip through a rack of posters at Walmart and never bat an eye at the bevy of thong-bikini-clad hotties from Maxim magazine.
I treasure moments such as his gently nudging me aside from one of his online video games and sighing, “I can see this is going to call for a PROFESSIONAL.” (He’s eager to sign up for a college degree in video game design via an online college, but I’d rather not think about his high school prom date being his student loan officer.)
I try to savor his showers, his bedtime stories, his all-purpose prayers (“Thank you, God, for our food and our beds…”) and the opportunity to synchronize my watch by his vegetable-disdaining pronouncements of “I’m full. (One…two..) What’s for DESSERT?”
Yes, I’m enjoying the present and I want to make sure Gideon does as well. I strive to avoid all the stereotypical parental phrases that bug youngsters: “Why, back when I was your age,” “This hurts me more than it hurts you,” “Because I said so!” and the rest.
Granted, if absolutely backed into a corner, I’ll exhibit some backbone and “man up” to my fatherly responsibilities.
“Why, son? Because Mewsilla said so! That’s why!”