Thursday, June 21, 2007

Xs and Os for Daddy's Day

By Stephen Guilfoyle

There was a touch of sadness in my dad's voice a few years back.

He had gone up to New York City, I think for a funeral.

My cousins had given him a hug and a kiss.

"I can get my nephews to give me a little kiss, but not my sons," he said.

So I gave him a pat on the back.

I'm no one's definition of a macho man, but I have taken on, over the years, some decidedly macho mannerisms.

I prefer always to go to a barber shop. I want to go in and grunt. If there is to be conversation, let it be about football, baseball and nothing in between. Or the latest political goings-on with them "idiots" up in Washington or down in Columbia.

I do not want to talk about what I want done to my hair.

I want to say, "Regular cut" nine months of the year and "Trim" in the summer and get the exact same hair cut for my $5 bucks. But that hasn't happened, really, since I moved from New York. Just can't find a good old fashioned enough barber, most of the time. Or can't go to the few I've found regularly enough, given my commute.

That's just one thing. I do eat quiche, and they have a fantastic quiche at the Olde English Creamery, but I haven't been back to get it since that first time.

But I resisted quiche as a youngster. But break it down. You say quiche, I say cheese and bacon pie. What could be more dude-ish than cheese and bacon? Than pie?

Not much.

But along the line, I had stopped giving my dad a hug giving him a goodbye kiss or just saying, "Love you" when I left his home or on the phone.

He said what he said, and I've done a better job, since, but I still don't do it all the time. But he deserves them all. He's a great guy, and the best father.

I bring this up, because I get it now. I understand.

It was Father's Day Sunday. My first Father's Day

Just coincidentally, my son kissed me, on Sunday. Or maybe not coincidentally.

His mother my lovely bride goes into work most Sunday afternoons, so my boy and I have a lot of "daddy time" as my wife calls it.

I get to play with him, get to feed him, get to change him, get to give him his bath and get to put him to bed almost every Sunday.

He had this thing he did with his mother and me, where he'd come at us, mouth wide open. I called it a kiss, but he could just as easily been trying to chew my chin off. Gnaw a little, dribble a little drool down our chins.

Is that saying I love you? Or is that just sharing the saliva? Spreading the spit?

On Sunday, he wasn't feeling great. He's normally a great eater - my son, after all - but he didn't have a great appetite. I took him out of his high chair and fed him these little "puffs" they have now, no calories, one by one.

After a while, he wouldn't eat them off his high chair tabletop, but he took them from me, one by one.

He just liked them, so he ate them. But after about the third he ate from my hand, sitting on my lap, he smiled and leaned in, all the way in.

He didn't open up his mouth for the "bite" he usually takes. Nope, he just smooshed his mouth against mine. And did it two more times, smiling all the while.

To some people, fathers are a joke, a punchline. Many times, fathers aren't there, and we are bearing the price as a society.

We hear a lot about children cast rudderless because they don't have a father or enough positive male role models. To me, that bodes not well for the future. But the problem with absent fathers isn't just the effect it will have down the road.

This little man is changing me every single day, making me be better every single day, and making me want to be better, every single day.

The men who are absent from their children are both fools and they are missing out on the best thing possible. They are paying a price now that they have no idea about.

I'm told I dote on my son and my family has been good enough to let me know they think I'm doing a good job, so far.

"All you need is love," John, Paul, George and Ringo sang a long time ago. If only that were true.

My son has been sick a couple of times, stumbled and landed bad - sometimes on his head, and cried, more than a couple of times. I love him, but that doesn't make the sick go away, doesn't make the hurt stop hurting. I wrap him up in a hug, but he still, sometimes, whimpers or cries.

All you need is love. I wish that were true.

But love does give and does solve some things.

When I married, I said my wife was making me into the man I was supposed to be. Funny how a good woman can do that.

My son is filling in the gaps, making me into a man I never thought I could be.

It's a shame that it seems that fatherhood sounds like I'm doing a lot more taking than giving. But my son is giving so much to me.

We had a special day, and I know why my father wants a hug and a kiss from his sons, because I know how good it makes you feel, now, to have your son kiss you. And he won't get any guff from me about it any more.

So it was a very special day. We ended it like any other, doing that pre-sleep ritual. I, of course, gave him his bath, and he played and he splashed and he played and he laughed.

And then he pooped in the tub.

All you need is love? Love doesn't scoop a floater out of the tub.

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