After all these years together Pat Brothwell finally realizes what makes his dad so cool.
It might be a little bit of a cliché, but my hero has always been my father.
And it might pain me to admit, but most of my life I’ve also always thought he was really cool.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a household where my mother didn’t work. Unfortunately for her, this meant that most of the disciplining, as well as the unpleasant tasks that come along with parenting were all in her corner. My dad lucked out. He got do all the cool stuff and we idolized him for it.
He worked long hours an hour away from where we grew up. He was up and gone every day before I woke up and didn’t get home till 6:30 or so. I remember patiently waiting for “Daddy to come home.” My brother and I would sit on the loveseat in our living room, the one below the front window and wait until we saw his car park across the street and then run and tackle the poor guy as soon as he came in the door.
After we ate, if we were lucky, he’d let us fight us him and the three of us would wrestle around the living room until he inevitably wore us out or else convinced us that we were worn out. If we were really lucky we’d get to play hide and seek. He always won because he was able to crawl up to the ceiling to hide, sort of like Spiderman. I distinctly remember bragging to classmates about this. I mustn’t have been a very swift child because our house was not big. Even if it were somehow possible for people to defy gravity and hang on the ceiling, we would have been able to see him. I just chalked it up to something he learned in the Marines.
My parents had met while my dad was stationed with her brother in North Carolina. He was even cool then. He lived in an A-Frame house on the beach and had a cabin cruiser called the Sea Fiddler that he used to take out with our dog Freddy. One time he accidentally caught a shark and another time he hung on to the fin of a friendly dolphin and went on a joyride. I’ve never asked him if those were lies. He used to tell us stories about going to parties on sand banks, swimming after his boat when it got loose and his crazy Marine friends.
By the time we were born he was in the reserves. Having a dad in the Marines, especially one that didn’t mean you had to move every four years was the best. We got to dress up in camouflage and go down to his base and play in the back of Humvees. He regaled us with stories of his time stationed in the Phillipines playing volleyball while getting heckled by a troop of monkees, almost running over a tree trunk sized anaconda in a tiny army jeep and getting chased by a wild boar. I sometimes couldn’t believe how cool my dad was.
Sometime in my early teen years, my idolization of my dad waned a bit. I never stopped liking him and we’ve always had a close relationship but I started realizing there was stuff about him I wasn’t exactly impressed with. And it’s hard to fool a teenager into thinking you have magical powers.
I got really into music at this time. I liked listening to it loud and figured myself a connoisseur of lyrics. My dad doesn’t like to listen to anything above a whisper and doesn’t appreciate anything but the Beach Boys and Frank Sinatra. He’d commit the ultimate teenage coup by making me listen to his music in my car even when I was driving because “his car, his music.”
Like most people, my dad inevitably got old. He wasn’t the young strapping marine he was in elementary school. He was a little heavier, a little greyer and was plagued by a bad back and knees and did emabrassing things like walk around in front of my friends in his tightie whities. To top it off, I just thought he wasn’t that interesting. He wasn’t running around in the southeastern Asian jungle anymore or sending us postcards from Norway. His perfect night involved a bowl of maple walnut ice cream and watching Die Hard for the 87th time.
Then I turned 16, my hormones balanced out and I once again started thinking he was a cool guy. By this time he was retired from the Marines as a Colonel. That’s straight up badass. I went away to college and he was always very cool about my indiscretions. I had friends grounded for failing courses and I heard my own mother drop the F-bomb for the first time when it happened to me. My dad got on the phone and remained calm and told me that I messed up and that he knows I’m aware of that and that we’d just have to work around it. See? Cool guy right?
My dad was also one of the only parents who came down and drank with us during college. He stopped into the bar during kegs & eggs and all the pitchers were him. He came to our house on the St. Patrick’s Day parade and I realized at this point that my friends really like him. Actually, I don’t know many people who don’t like my dad. He’s personable, easy to talk to and never one to be the center of attention. He also chugs a fast beer and his fun stories about college and the marines have some added detail he couldn’t tell us as kids.
My dad always spent time with us and went to more games and concerts than he needed to. He was always a phone call away when the car broke down or I blew a tire and always did the requisite dad stuff like teach me how to jump a car or help with my homework.
He also taught me how to be comfortable in my own skin. When we were in first grade my brother and my favorite movie was Fantasia. I don’t love that this happened but what could you do? My mother refused to watch it because she thought it was awful and I don’t blame her. The film will be banned in my household when I have kids. My dad would watch it with us time and time again with no complaint. This is a Marine Colonel, a guy who played football and basketball and golf in high school, basically the most stereotypical masculine guy I know who watched this movie with his kids and didn’t say a word.
I even ask him today, “weren’t you weirded out that we loved it?” Even if he was he still never admits this much. My brother and I were much more apt to draw or sing as children and hardly interested in throwing baseballs or footballs with my dad and I’m sure it disappointed him but he never once made me feel weird or uncomfortable or pressured us into doing something we didn’t want.
I never had a “I wish dad would pay attention to me” moment. He also liked spending time with us. I realized this during my first semester of college when he would call to say he had a business trip near Scranton, why didn’t he stop by for a sandwich? He’d never had business trips to Scranton before. Although he was always working a lot in order to give us a more than easy upbringing he was always present.
We still talk a lot and he has the ability to center me if I feel myself coming undone. I don’t hate going home and not being able to find any friends because he’s actually fun to go out with. I remember driving back from home a couple of years ago and seeing a billboard on the Turnpike about the “absent tee dad crisis.” Literally a minute later he texted me, “Drive safe. Always good seeing you.” He still sends me the same text every time I leave.
I find myself slowly morphing into him in some ways. And while I’ll probably never be a Marine or live on the beach or get chased by a monkey in the jungle somewhere maybe if I’m lucky I could be as cool as he is someday when I’m a dad of my own. For now I could do without sitting at home in my underwear with a bowl of coffee ice cream and a Godfather marathon anytime soon.
I’m sorry if I’m coming across as bragging but in reality, I am.
I mean, I have the coolest dad ever.