Father’s Day 2017
Was it spring or winter? Was I six or was I eleven? I honestly can’t remember.
Pop and I were out picking up supplies at the local mall, and I’d lobbied my way into three minutes at the toy store. I made a bee line to the Lego section (Legos being, before computers, the only type of toy I ever truly coveted) to drool. I was definitely still in that magical stage of childhood, when simply staring at the backs of boxes (if done just long enough) is almost as satisfying as possessing the thing.
It was a well-practice ritual. Being the youngest in a large family, you see enough Abbot and Costello-esque shopping trip routines – “Can I have this?” “No.” “Why not?” “Third base!” – to not really bother asking when you get to that age. Toys were received on birthdays, Christmases, through ‘inheritance’ (which is a much kinder way of saying ‘hand-me-downs’), and the odd visit from a distant relative who knows enough to grease the wheels with a well-timed trinket. That was the drill. It wasn’t sad or anything; it was just normal.
So I compromised by scamming stops to the toy store so I could do some in-depth research for my fantasy Nickelodeon Super Toy Run. I was turning a small box over in my hands (some hand-sized spaceship… or was it a pirate ship), studying the two or three example builds on the back, when I heard Pop’s voice.
“Do you like that one?”
I looked up. “Yeah.” I held it up for him. “It’s pretty cool, huh?”
Pop took it in his hand, glanced down for a second. “It really is.” He looked at me. “You’ve done really well lately, and mom and I appreciate it.” A pause.
I didn’t really know what he was getting at (I was never very perceptive).
Then he asked, “Should we get it?”
Genuinely stunned, I half-stammered, half-shouted a “sure!” Pop smiled and we walked up to the register together.
I was all “thanks” and “wow”s and “really”s. And Pop kept saying, “Thank you for trying so hard.”
It’s been dozens of years since that day, tens of thousands of interactions between then and now. But it still comes to me regularly. And, whenever I stop to consider the kind of dad I’m trying to be, this memory inevitably bubbles to the surface. I’m not exactly sure why; capital-f Fatherhood is certainly more than buying your child toys.
But, when Liam asks me (with increasingly regularity) to visit the toy store, I often find myself thinking of Pop and me on that day when, in a glow of mutual appreciation, he broke protocol and bought me that little Lego ship.