In 1965, I was in Mrs. Kelly’s afternoon kindergarten class at Wanless Elementary School. Because my parents were young and poor, my dad worked nights and my mom worked at a bank during the day. That meant that my dad had to look after me in the morning and get me to school.
My dad has never changed a diaper or gotten involved in the care and feeding of his kids. Most men of his generation just didn’t interact with their kids like they do today and that’s a shame. But that’s just the way it was. In spite of his nearly queasy discomfort with childcare, he took care of me every school day for an entire year. He fixed my lunch, made sure I had on some kind of clothes and then took me to school in our beloved car that we called Clunker #2 (which was later replaced with Clunker #3).
Every day before school, my dad boiled a hot dog, put it on a fork and served it up on a Correlle dinner plate garnished with a splotch of ketchup for dipping. I remember sitting at the kitchen table eating my hot dog in silence and watching my dad read the newspaper. He didn’t pay much attention to me, but I didn’t mind. Our relationship has always been about just hanging out.
After lunch, he would stand me up on the bathroom sink and awkwardly try to wipe ketchup off my face as I flitted and twitched and fidgeted. 41 years later, I now understand the difficulty of this feat. Then in an exercise of futility, he would clumsily try to convince a comb through my unruly hair before we headed out the door for school.
Looking back, my dad was a pretty sorry mom. He would be the first one to admit that. But I don’t remember it that way. I remember thinking he was a gourmet cook, even after hot dog #83. I remember sitting at the kitchen table and being fascinated with how his soft brown arm hair laid around his wrist watch. I remember sitting beside him on the front seat of Clunker #2 unable to see anything but the dashboard and bumping down North Grand on the way to school. But mostly, I just remember it as being a special time when it was just me and my dad.
And that gives me hope. It gives me hope that Sean won’t remember my many failings and shortcomings and ineptitude as a parent. But that maybe 41 years from now, he will just remember these days as a special time in his life.