Jeff Jackson strives to live up to the standards of being a “good dad,” and does the best he can. As he ponders what that means, he realizes his own dad was pondering the same thing.
When I was in high school, I went to this party somewhere out in some remote woods section not very far from where I lived. I went with my usual buddies who all liked to drink. I liked to drink also, but on this particular evening, I decided not to drink. At this point, I’m sure everyone reading this is thinking, oh no, what terrible thing is gonna happen next?
But, it’s not what you think. All 25 or 30 or maybe even 50 people there were carted away by the Sherriff’s office to the jail. Nobody got hurt. Nothing terribly bad happened. That is, besides the call I had to make home to get picked up… at the jail. Then, I had to endure: the car ride home, the lecture when I got home, the trip the next morning to a lake house we were renting for the summer.
I was feeling particularly, for lack of a better word, unappreciated. After all, unlike my friends, I was not drinking.
But, my father, out of nowhere, comes to me while I’m standing on the bank with my fishing pole in my hand and apologizes to me. He said he knew I wasn’t drinking and maybe he overreacted. He loved me and worried about me and just wanted to make sure I’m safe and not doing anything stupid and hurting myself.
My dad was born in Tom Brokaw’s Greatest Generation in New York City, Hell’s Kitchen. These guys were not known for being the best communicators. They survived a depression and a major world war. They returned home to build something they had never had before, freedom with financial stability.
I think of him often in my struggles to be a good father. In some ways, I am like him. I definitely look like him, except perhaps 60 pounds lighter. I would not categorically say that I am better than him. Dad used to say that he did the best he could and that there were no books around to tell him how to be a dad. The irony now being that there a jillion books, but, in the end, they don’t help much either.
My first marriage failed cause I’m a complete idiot, but at least we didn’t have any kids. No, it’s really none of your business why I’m an idiot. Ok, maybe I’m too hard on myself and I expect perfection when I’m really just as human as anyone.
My second marriage is great with my wife being substantially younger than me. It took a lot of hard work and practice, but we were blessed with twin boys seven years ago. Being 51 when the boys were born has advantages and disadvantages.
I like to think I am older and wiser now. I have lived in three different states, travelled across the US and through Europe, have had several careers and many job changes. Of the top five stressors in life, I have experienced four of them.
The downside is that when the boys want to play, they want to play and daddy is often tired. I am thankful for my job and the very short commute, but I put in a lot of hours. Sometimes I am more patient than other times.
All in all, I try to do the best I can, too. My dad never talked very much to me and I try to take advantage of my experience and education and talk to my kids like they want and need me to. I’m not better than Dad, just different. These are different times and I’m different than he was.
He’s been gone almost fifteen years. I think of him almost daily hoping that he would be proud of what I have become. He was my dad and I am a daddy.
I’m proud of both of us.
Photo: Flickr/Bill Gracey