Sunday, June 21, 2015

Father Time

Young dad walks up the aisle of a flight to some well planned out trip. The kids excitedly skip up the aisle drawing smiles. Mom has the monogrammed bag with some snacks, a travel mag and the equivalent of the "Presidential football" in hand. Dad looks like he is off to war. Every finger holds a bag, stroller, backpack, diaper bag, extra bag in case the airlines lose the main bags, and his laptop. Exhausted already, and set to cram a lost year into 5 or 6 days, the man in his 80's sitting next to him taps him on the arms and says.."You're doing good, son.."

You would have thought the young dad just heard the Gipper speech. Dads don't get that affirmation often. If Moms are the family quarterback, dads are the lineman. It's about the blocking and tackling. Lineman rarely make the ESPN top 10 highlights. The good ones just go to work everyday with a servants heart in hopes of making the team better.

A few days later, I noticed something on my family trip, a clear view through the back window. No strollers, potties, diaper bags. Just a sinking feeling as I looked at my daughters that time is moving WAY too fast.

Maybe all dads think this way. Maybe parental guilt for dads is a new thing. I don't remember my dad sharing a pain for the times he wasn't around during the week when I saw him on the weekends. Beyond football and mundane subjects most dads don't. He just did the blocking and tackling. Made the ballgames, showed how to cook a steak, replace the tires and get a tune up before your 16 year old drives alone for the first time, and said he was proud of me.

A few years ago I was part of Men's Fraternity by Robert Lewis. He said that kids need to know 3 things from their dads. You love them. You are proud of them. They are good at..____.

I saw successful grown men break down that never heard that from their dads. Some men spend their days chasing affirmation from a dad that died years before, and fail to offer that affirmation to their kids. So much lost time and wasted talk.

Spending the weekends with my dad left all week to seek mischief. The great dads reach out to those kids without realizing it. To this day, I call the Bursa's friends. Brian manages the Tampa office of Lewis Brisbois. He ran with my brothers, I ran with his brothers. Sports, scouts, school. Brian's dad, Big Ed worked 6 days a week, but never missed a game. Every few years he'd have to come by my house. Until the age of 72, he cleaned septic tanks and I never saw him without a smile on his face. In fact, he had heart problems at 62 and worked 10 years with congestive heart failure until the family made him retire. 3 kids graduated with advanced degrees, 2 others own businesses, and their mom stayed home playing quarterback. He moonlighted at a convenience store and still worked there for 6 months after being held up at gunpoint, and he did it with a smile.

I don't know if he ever had parental guilt or just was the bridge between a Pennsylvania farm family and his kids.

Doing what he wished he could always do. Good dads try to make the next generations life just a bit better. They walk the house one last time to check the locks, take a hand when words are tough to come by, drop off close to the door in the rain, hug for the heck of it, make funny noises, inappropriate aromas, and quietly worry to the core of their being for their kids. They are giants in spite of what the latest sitcom tries to portray them as.

Guys talk without talking in many ways. Younger men approach the tee and hit the ball with every ounce of energy looking to impress, often leading to failure. There is something older men have learned about hitting the ball 150 yards at a time and playing for par. It takes a while to settle a restless boys soul into a dad bod.

Some dads are worthy of the Greatest Dad shirts, some arent. If your dad wasn't, forgive him, even if he isn't around to hear it. If he is, a few words will make him think that he heard the Gipper speech, don't waste them on sports and filler talk. Father Time is short and cruel, but it's the best time of you and your dads life.

Psalm 145:4

Andrew Wilcox at (850) 629-9073, or