Sunday, June 21, 2020

World’s Second-Best Dad!


Today, obviously, is Father’s Day. My day, really. With my own dad having passed away, this has become one of those rare holidays (my birthday being the other salient example) when I can just relax and bask in … well, in the hope, at least, that I’ll be remembered. My wife always remembers, of course, because she’s an adult. The kids are touch-and-go. Today, they rose to the occasion, but perhaps not all the way up. Metaphorically speaking they propped themselves on an elbow. But I got an unexpected bonus as well. Read on, because albertnet features some special guest stars today!

The card from Secunda

When my wife and I needed a code name for each of our kids, we went with Prima and Secunda for a short while until the kids figured it out. Well, Secunda was the first kid to give me a Father’s Day card, and since she didn’t actually sign it, I have to wonder if she’s willing to be held accountable. Thrilling to the idea that any member of her generation still values privacy, I’ll honor it. Here is the card Secunda gave to me:

My first reaction was, wait, what does age have to do with Father’s Day? But then, it seems almost impossible for my kids to even think of me without automatically cringing at how fricking old (and thus largely irrelevant) I have gotten.

Opening the card, I see that my daughter was apparently thinking ahead to my birthday (in just a few days) so the ageing theme actually makes sense. Fortunately she hadn’t gotten very far on that card—and I can’t blame her, it’s really hard to think of what to write inside—so she pivoted and repurposed it for Father’s Day. Here, you can read the whole thing:

Because her handwriting is so poor, here in legible text is what she wrote:
Hey Dana,
Thanks for making the moola all these years. Every time I buy overpriced crap I think of you, sort of. I like your Mickey Mouse pancakes. I would say they might be the second best Mickey Mouse pancakes I’ve ever had (but you don’t make them anymore). Being 2nd best at anything is pretty meh, good enough though. World’s #2 Dad! I’d buy you a mug but I don’t think they make them like that. Silver medals suit you, they match your hair. Thanks for trying your hardest!
your favorite daughter

Wow. Ouch. You like how she calls me “Dana”? She’s been doing that for a couple months now. She says it in a somewhat pejorative voice, with just a touch of a sneer. I love the smiley face with $ eyes. You can see the kind of values I’ve instilled, or rather failed to instill.

Now, I have to confess, I had forgotten about the Mickey Mouse pancakes. I used to make those when the kids were very little, especially when we were camping. I’d make the batter a bit runny, and do multiple connected cakes to form a Mickey Mouse head. The kids were enchanted. Looking back, I really miss having the ability to enchant my kids. So why did I stop making these pancakes? Because the kids outgrew them? I’d like to claim that, but clearly my kid remembers them still whereas I forgot. Surely there’s at least one dad out there who still enchants his kids, so I guess I can’t protest having to settle for World’s #2 Dad. It’d be a sweeter sentiment without the dig at my hair, of course. I guess she couldn’t resist.

Speaking of silver, there really is a silver lining to my daughter razzing me like that. My brothers and I never had enough rapport with our dad to tease him, even lightly. He was always dead earnest and could not laugh at himself. There were so many opportunities, such as most nights at the dinner table when he would hold forth at length about science, engineering, and so forth … usually whatever he was doing at work. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say we heard several dozen lectures about the interferometer he was building. It would have been so cathartic at some point to say, “You know what, Dad? None of us has understood a word you’ve said for the last twenty dinners. We don’t even have the slightest idea what an interferometer even does or why anybody would pay you to build one. Everything you say goes right over our heads.” But we wouldn’t dare.

The closest I came was when I took my kids to the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco. They had an interferometer exhibit and I begged my younger daughter to go pose with it. I posted this photo to the album that I shared with my family, adding the caption, “Lindsay went straight for the interferometer and we could scarcely peel her away...”

I was worried this might be too much of a gibe, and that my dad would realize he was the butt of a joke, but he was clueless. He responded with a comment something like, “It’s impressive the interferometer exhibit was clever enough to engage such a young audience so effectively.” To which I replied, “Yeah … unlike you.” (No, of course I didn’t say that.)

I guess it kind of stings, to be honest, that my daughter signed off with “From” instead of “Love.” But then, affection of any sort, even verbal, seems to strike my children as tasteless.

The card from Prima

Moving on, here’s the card from Prima:

Okay, what is up with that smear? I’ll confess, given how well both my kids can draw, I was a bit less than impressed that the first card was clearly store-bought and rather uninspired, but at least it was clean. What, is that chocolate? Or did the cat throw up on it? I guess I’ll give Prima the benefit of the doubt … maybe she did the card (if you could call it that) many days ago and it floated around the house for a while. Even still, you can tell she didn’t put her heart and soul into this. Probably she was prompted: “You better have a card for your dad.” Perhaps she resented being required to produce one. Anyway, here’s what she wrote:

Now, some people just have better handwriting than others. To a large extent it’s generational—my mom, for example, has beautiful penmanship—and I could forgive a kid, even when her college classes have ended, for not taking a lot of time to painstakingly write out her card as prettily as possible. But then, this kid does calligraphy for fun, so I can’t say I’m completely blown away here. To spare you trying to decipher her accidental encryption, here’s what she wrote: 
You’re pretty good all things considered but I think there is room for improvement. Hope you take constructive criticism.
1. Your bald spot is gross
2. You snore way too loud
3. You have weird sunglasses
4. You think listening to Eminem makes you cool (it doesn’t)
5. You drive a Volvo you dweeb
6. You have weird veins
7. You keep getting injured (stop)
8. You have a weird beard
9. You keep getting old
10. Yeah
Your better daughter
Wow. And ouch. That’s not really a greeting card, it’s a roast! And yeah, I like having solid rapport with my kids, but this might just be a little over the top. On a day when I’m supposed to kick back in the hammock, ponder with satisfaction what fatherhood means to me, and bask in the glow of a doting family, I feel blindsided … I mean, is it just me, or is this kid straight up rinsing the piss out of me?

Look, I know I have a bald spot, and it’s one of life’s disappointments since when I was growing up my mom explained that, based on the genes in my two family lines, I would have a full head of hair my whole life, which I clearly don’t. It’s like my hairline and my bald spot are racing toward each other until I only have hair left on the sides, like a clown. Suddenly the reassurances I’ve heard on this matter—for example, that I’m tall enough that not too many people can even see the bald spot—are just attempts to be nice. Attempts, I should add, that are no longer being made.

As far snoring, that’s not exactly fair. My wife tells me, perhaps honestly, that I’ve only been snoring lately, because I’m forced to sleep on my back since my arm is in a sling due to a broken collarbone. But okay, fine, I’ll own it. I snore. Sue me.

It’s number three, “You have weird sunglasses,” that really kind of stings, because I really put a lot of thought into choosing my sunglasses. They’re prescription, and cost a bundle, so I wanted to make sure I chose the frames carefully. In fact, I even dragged my wife with me to the optometrist’s, so she could weigh in. While I modeled them, I asked her to take a photo because I can never see much in those tiny little mirrors the sunglasses display cases have. Well, my wife snapped the photo and started laughing. I started to get a little annoyed—like, if they’re that bad, why am I wasting my time trying them on?—until she showed me the photo. My wife doesn’t have a smartphone, and struggles with the soft-key interface, as you can see:

She had no idea how the cartoon enhancements were made, and I don’t either. Once we figured out how to turn off the silly effect, I got a good look, and we agreed these are the cool shades. I was, I’m a little embarrassed to say, kind of proud of them. But now my daughter has weighed in, speaking of course for her entire generation, the new generation, the only generation that matters, and has pronounced them “weird.” Here, you might as well mock them too:

Moving on to #4, do I think listening to Eminem makes me cool? No, I know 50-somethings can’t be cool. This is truly a musical choice based entirely on my appreciation of Eminem’s music … but to my daughter, it’s just a pose.

And driving a Volvo makes me a dweeb? I thought I deserved credit for recognizing myself as a family man and owning it, vs. buying a big dumb SUV just to show the world how “rugged” and “sporty” and “outdoorsy” I am. And I could have done worse, style-wise, than a Volvo. What if I had a Nissan Cube, or a PT Cruiser, or a Scion XB? (Oh, wait, I do have a Scion XB.) Okay, fine, I give up. I have a dweeb-y car. Two dweeb-y cars.

On to #6, “You have weird veins.” I feel like I’m under a microscope or something. Who knew kids even noticed this kind of stuff? And to be honest, I’ve historically thought my veins were kind of cool, showing off my low body fat etc. In fact, I even mentioned in these pages how, when I donate blood, the technicians praise my for my easy-to-find veins:

But of course I’ve been living in a fool’s paradise. Nobody likes prominent veins. They’re … weird.

I guess I can’t really defend myself against the next criticism, that I keep getting injured. I could argue that statistically I’ve got a pretty good track record, as I’ve ridden my bike over 200,000 miles in my lifetime, and competed in over 250 races, with only three significant injuries. Alas, all three injuries have been in my kid’s lifetime (a separated shoulder, a broken leg, and now this collarbone), so I’ll have to face the music here.

Now, this weird beard, which you can see in the sunglasses photo above, isn’t really by choice. It’s my right collarbone that’s broken, and I’m right-handed, so I think I should get points for at least shaving my neck left-handed. Yeah, I get that my beard is turning grey, particularly this little patch near the corner of my mouth so it looks like stray toothpaste. I know if my colleagues saw this graying beard, I’d probably be laid off from my job since I work in tech. So it’s kind of a race: will my shoulder heal by the time my employer reopens their offices?

On to number nine … I “keep getting old.” Well, what am I supposed to do? I guess over in Marin County, and certainly in southern California, all the 50-something men are getting testosterone shots and taking human growth hormone, and maybe they have time to meditate and be mindful, and they’re getting hair plugs, all positive steps in the war on ageing, while I’m just out injuring myself. Forgive me for living!

I asked about #10, “Yeah…” and my daughter said, “You should be grateful I ran out of things to complain about!”

Bonus card – the trifecta!

Imagine my surprise and delight when my smartphone chirped to alert me to a third Father’s Day card, this one from my brother, known to my kids as Evil Uncle Max:

This card pretty much speaks for itself. Man, what a work of art! If I’m not mistaken, this was created without the use of Photoshop. In case you’re wondering, yes—that is my mom holding me in her arms. That isn’t a baby photo of me, but it’s at least from the first half of my life, when I still had a full head of hair. Here’s what Max wrote inside:

Kind an “A for effort” sentiment, walking that fine line between showing me the love and damning me with faint praise. “Totally reasonable” indeed! I particularly appreciate “So take yourself out to dinner or something,” the subtext being, “No point waiting for anybody else to take you.” Clearly, he knows my family well!

Well, there it is, another year of fatherhood done and dusted. Some say our kids won’t fully appreciate us until they’re parents themselves. Caveats being “if and when,” I guess. But you know what? I’m going to look on the bright side … I seem to have excellent rapport with my kids. At least they know I can laugh at myself.

But wait, there’s more!

To my surprise and delight, my kids produced bonus Father’s Day cards just a bit ago, after I had written most of this post. These second cards were done with much more care than the gag ones above. Prima even wrote me this nice limerick: 
There once was a weirdo from Boulder
Who constantly messed up his shoulder.
He is always in pain   
But he’ll do it again
As he keeps getting older and older.
Okay, not that nice … I guess she couldn’t help herself!

Further albertnet reading on this topic:

For a complete index of albertnet posts, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment