J.R. Reed is starting to feel time fly by, and in watching his daughter grow into her teen years, he realizes just how important her memories of him will someday be.
I was at a Memorial Day BBQ with some of my closest friends when “Ira” walked into the backyard. Ira has a thing for cheap malt liquor and generally stumbles into events like this.
Ira is an unemployed, alcoholic father in his early thirties with children by two different women. He rarely works and is supported by his long time girlfriend who isn’t one of the baby mamas.
My friend Steve has three kids who are now grown and have families of their own. Steve’s wife left him with a twelve-year-old, eleven-year-old and nine year-old and we’ve been doing barbecues like this for more than twenty years. We used to do these in his backyard but now the “usual place” is his daughter’s backyard.
Ira grew up across the street from Steve and the short version of the story is that Ira is the stereotypical bad dad. He proved it again Monday.
“What up dawg?” he slurred while walking up to me.
“Nothing,” I replied as I lifted my bottle of Bud Light off the table. “Just partying like Pitbull.”
The kid I met when he was 12 years old raised his mostly empty forty-ounce Steel Reserve and attempted to make contact with my bottle.
He regaled me with the story of how he currently owes $46,000 in back child support but that he found out that if he tells his social worker he’s homeless he can get the child support cut way back.
It was at this point that my fourteen-year-old daughter walked up to ask a question.
“Damn,” Ira said. “Is that Drama Queen?”
“Yeah,” I replied as I scanned the yard for a reason to excuse myself from this conversation.
“She developed nicely,” Ira said.
I was trying to decide which fence I was going to throw him over when I realized he didn’t mean anything by it. Ira isn’t the most eloquent of people and he meant that he hasn’t seen her in six or seven years and that she grew up.
I hope that’s what he meant to say.
I finally broke free from Ira but couldn’t stop thinking about what he said about his kids and child support.
What kind of parent goes out of their way to find ways to make sure their children have less? The obvious answer is the kind of parent who lives mainly on cheap malt liquor, cigarettes and whatever pills he can scrounge up.
I quietly moved across the backyard and sat alone surveying the scene. Watching everyone interact I had one of those flashbacks like you see on TV. Everyone was younger and I started visualizing memories from back in the day.
Where once there was Steve, three young kids, some friends and me, there’s now Steve, his grown kids, his granddaughter, the friends from the earlier parties and their growing kids along with D.Q. and me. The venue and specific memories may change from year to year but the one thing that’s remained constant are parents, kids, good food and fun.
As my daughter and I climbed into the car I wondered what memories Ira’s kids have of him.
What we did Tuesday of last week will likely get lost in my daughter’s brain but days like this will stick around for a while. It was more than our friend Bone making his killer tri tip or little Bean banging on her drums while eating the cake cookie Drama Queen made. It’s conversations and stories that were shared amongst friends.
As my daughter gets older I’m becoming more and more conscious of what I remember from my teenage years (both good and bad) and I strive to make sure she has as many memories of us hanging out as possible.
Memories are going to be made whether or not we’re there and I beg you to make sure the memories your kids have include you.
Image of Father and Son Barbecueing courtesy of Shutterstock