The most dad thing

It’s too late for this, I’ve got to get some sleep — I have to go catch a plane in the morning. It’s a list of the most “Dad thing” people’s fathers have ever done, and it just made me sad. It’s all these embarrassing or old fashioned or idiosyncratic stupid quirks from their fathers. There’s a depressing tendency to treat older fathers as behind-the-times dopes, Homer Simpson on the way to becoming Grandpa Simpson.

So I had to think of the most Dad things my father ever did.

  • Taught me how to drive.

  • Told my mother he loved her.

  • For my first date, took me to the local clothing shop for a nice casual suit; afterwards, we went to the florist to order a corsage.

  • Up at 4am. Pancake breakfast at the dock. A day at sea catching salmon.

  • Apologized to the family when he did wrong, tried to be a better man.

  • Worked two jobs to make ends meet, came home with hands calloused and grease-stained.

  • Asked me to read to him.

  • “Righty tighty, lefty loosy.”

  • Wept when his mother died.

  • Gathering chanterelles in an old growth forest…and we just stopped, sat on a mossy log, and looked up at the cathedral of trees.

  • Six kids meant eight limits, so we’d spend all day at the beach digging clams, most of the work his, and then he’d invite the whole extended family and all of his friends over for a feast. There was Dad, laughing, with big pots of butter clams.

  • Guess who showed me the Milky Way, and Venus, and Mars?

  • Long mornings in the cold and rain, a small fire to keep us warm, our steelhead poles braced and reaching out into the slow currents of the Green River…and other old fishermen would stop by and talk to Dad, getting his feel for the river lore.

  • Getting passionate, and usually irate, over football.

  • Seeing him sketch, seeing the watercolors from his youth, hearing him talk about wanting to be a painter…and then he’d look at his hands, thick and muscular, smudged with dirt and the nails cracked ragged, like he couldn’t understand how this happened.

  • Looked like he really wanted to give me some advice, stopped, told me “Live your own life, son.”

  • Died.

So I don’t know…stupid Dad stories leave me kind of cold and discouraged.

It’s OK if my kids tell a few about me, though. I guess I expect it now.


  1. ChasCPeterson says

    damn it Myers, I shed fucking tears.
    My memories are so different, but still so the same.

  2. FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!) says

    Shit, this is so far from my experience that you might as well be speaking a different language. That said, I can understand how you feel about it. And more importantly, it speaks to me in a voice that says “Do better for your child. Give her memories like that” Thanks PZ.

  3. Holms says

    While I’m not one, I’m told this SFAM struck a chord with quite a few dads, although it’s more of a ‘dad’s perspective on having kids’ thing.

  4. chigau (違う) says

    I’m weeping a bit.
    I am my father.
    I have his skin, his teeth, his feet, his alcoholism…
    He taught me to drive and how to throw things
    and how to question … everything

  5. Lofty says

    I owe my father very little, although I managed to shed a tear at his funeral. My mother largely shaped me and for that I’m grateful. However I no longer hate my father, I pity him for being a product of his flawed past.

  6. runswithscissors says

    PZ, that is a really moving list. Your Dad sounds awesome, and I love being reminded what good parenting looks and sounds like.

    Sadly, for all too many people the Stupid Dopey Dad memories are the easiest to recall because they make our Dad’s seem less frightening or unpredictable.

    Honesty, it would take a lot of really really great memories to outweigh just one of watching your mother being strangled into unconsciousness, giving up on night-time hot milk because Dad puts valium in it to keep the kids under control, or being dragged from your bed and thrown out of the house into two foot of snow.

    30 years on I get push back from colleagues if I seem less than ecstatic about my father’s legacy. They don’t get that the drunk-dancing anecdotes, are the happier memories I can share.

  7. Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. (arguing from his own authority) says

    The most important thing my dad did (and still does) for me, and the most important thing I intend to do for my son, is to love and support me unconditionally in all that I do, and be proud of whatever achievements I manage to scrape together.

  8. echidna says

    Thanks for reminding me that my dad, too, gave me an appreciation of the outdoors. Those memories are usually swamped by some that are, shall we say, less nice.

  9. finisterre says

    Long-time reader, but this wonderful post has finally brought me out into the open.

    Although my dad was one of the nasties, I really loved your post, PZ; it gives us something to aspire to with our own children. As I get older, I feel fewer pangs of jealousy and more inspiration when reading about wonderful dads.

    All that said, I thought the list you linked to was actually pretty endearing. My FIL does lots of those dad-things and it’s part of the family expression of affection to tease him about them. My husband already has a stock of terrible dad-jokes he repeats at every opportunity, in a kind of homage to his father and fathers everywhere. I don’t think it lessens the love and respect to affectionately acknowledge their foibles..?

  10. robnyny says

    Must have known that his brother in law was raping his children. Beat me and my brothers.. Had endless affairs.Had bastard children he abandoned.

  11. carlie says

    My dad has done many dad things.
    He left a long singing message on my answering machine on my birthday in college.
    When I was getting married and moving far away for school and it was late and I was tired and let on a bit how scared I was of all of it, he hugged me and told me how proud he was and how he knew I’d do great.
    When I have any questions about my house or my car or building things at all, ever, I can call him and he usually knows the answer.
    When he’s telling a joke he has such a deadpan delivery that sometimes it’s hard to even notice he just did, and he’ll wait for you to catch up with the punchline. Unless it’s a terrible joke, in which case he’ll repeat it until you finally laugh just to make him stop.

    For everyone who had rotten parents – you deserved so much better. I hope you have good people in your lives now as friends and created family.

  12. Johnny Vector says

    Letting me guide the telescope for a little while, on a mountain in a faraway country, with a reel-to-reel tape of ALL the Creedence albums playing.

    Showing me how the reel-to-reel tape machine worked. Letting me play with it. Play and record.

    Teaching me how to coil a rope. Explaining that it’s not “rope”, it’s “line”.

    Handing me the keys to the PDP-11 for an hour.

    In his 70’s, while everyone else’s aging parents were asking “what is email?”, answering the question “is that a hub or a router?” with “It’s a switch.”

    This is (a big part of) my privilege.

  13. says

    My mum divorced my dad for good reason when I was 7. He was killed in front of my sister and me when I was just turned 15, in an electricity accident that my sister and I survived.

    Nevertheless, I remember:

    – taking me round the track in his racing Mini
    – skipping school with him to go skiing, or to a museum, or just on his route through northern Ontario for a car/cycle manufacturer
    – making ‘glop’ for dinner – a pan-fry of ground beef and assorted veg
    – blanket and pillow forts under the dining room table
    – going to his night school French classes
    – watching him count steamboats as the team pass rusher in a Saturday gridiron football league

    I’m gonna leave out the bad stuff.

  14. marcus says

    My father never seemed to like me very much. He probably wanted to be a “Dad” but just didn’t really know how. Remembering the few nice things he did just makes me sad.

  15. Big Boppa says

    Righty-tighty, lefty-loosey was my first thought as I began to read your list. Since you’ve already used it, let me add a couple of my own.

    – Taught me to shave when I was 6 (using a popsicle stick for a razor).
    – My dad was the son of an Italian taylor so he grew up believing that a man should always be well dressed in public. One of my fondest memories of him is of a day when he was working under the kitchen sink, trying to fix something or other. He needed a tool from the garage and sent me off to go find it for him. I couldn’t locate it and had to go back in to tell him so. He crawled out from under the sink, giving me an exasperated look in the process and shambled off to his bedroom, closing the door without a word. Soon he came out having changed his grubby, workin’-around-the-house clothes for his trademark gabardeens and pressed white shirt, went outside, crossed the yard and disappeared into the garage. A minute or so later, he was back with the tool he required. The whole time I was terrified that he was going to yell at me for my failure but after changing back into his grubbies he walked up to me and showed me the tool saying “This is a monkey wrench. Come here and I’ll show you how it works.” Nearly 50 years have passed and I still have that wrench in my basement.

  16. Rob Grigjanis says

    My dad taught me to judge people by their words and deeds, not their superficial attributes (nationality, race, gender, etc). No mean feat for someone who barely survived WWII sundered from his home and family, in a strange land.

  17. The Other Lance says

    The most ‘Dad’ thing my dad does is his integrity. He is the most upright, honest, forthright person I know. His professional life began before he completed college (after 3 attempts) and he retired from the same company that hired him initially 39 years later. He always treats everyone with respect and dignity, no matter the situation or provocation. I strive every day to live up to his example.

  18. says

    My dad was an alcoholic and chain smoker who taught me to skin rabbits when I was four. We used to trout fish for breakfast. He was a happy drunk. He sang and played button box at kitchen parties. He was younger than I am now when he was killed by the negligence of the oil industry- another roughneck, a rig pig (I was six). They got survival suits after the accident that killed him and 83 others (see: Ocean Ranger disaster), but there are still only the most minimal of worker protections: if you’re contract and you get injured badly enough that you can no longer do your job, whoops, too bad, you’re unemployed. Because the governments of Canada and Alberta want it that way.

    /still angry

  19. grumpyoldfart says

    My dad was a grumpy old fart. Everything I did was a waste of time, a waste of money, a waste of effort, or just plan stupid. He wasn’t cruel; just a grumpy old fart. At his funeral only one person cried – and she was not a member of the family.

  20. gijoel says

    @Robnyny. My heart goes out to you. I hope things are better for you now. It’s a pat response, but it’s the best I can think of.

  21. Artor says

    My dad, in a nutshell:
    Flying to D.C.
    Driving to Denver.
    Driving to Wyoming.
    Stopping by for a couple hours before driving to Salt Lake.
    “Wait until your father gets home!”
    Moving into the basement apartment in a snit because my mom asked him to stop smoking in the house. (she’s allergic to the smoke.)
    Disowning my sister when she came out as bisexual. (he got over that eventually)
    Getting home from the hospital after a major stroke and lighting up as soon as he could.
    Breathing from a bottle now, which he turns off just long enough to smoke another cigarette.

  22. says

    When I think of my father, I think of carpentry and gardening. Hours and hours of working in the garage shop, learning how to properly and safely use the table saw, lathe, drill presses, belt sander and more. Usually spent the late fall and winter working in the workshop

    Then in spring, prepping the garden by pulling weeds, tilling the soil, and putting in down compost (that was always the worst. We’d keep all our grass clippings throughout the year, plus home waste and annually pull it across the garden. That stuff STUNK!). Then we’d plant our tomatoes, cucumbers, assorted peppers, squash and whatever else fit our fancy that year.

    Late summer we’d harvest the tomatoes, enough that the kitchen table was always covered with tomatoes. We’d take those tomatoes, skin ’em, rice ’em and cook them down to tomato paste. Get them canned up. That would be used by my mother every Friday evening for her homemade pizza sauce.

    Really my father (very much with the help of my mother) instilled a good work ethic in me.

  23. says

    Holding this little baby boy up in the sunshine with a look of pure joy on his face (and the kid looks happy to) (no I don’t remember this of course; there is a photograph).

    Making stuff on his table saw — this raucous, screaming monster of which I was deathly afraid when I was little. Then teaching me to use that machine, then giving it to me when they downsized to a condo. It’s a year older than I am, a beautiful cast iron thing of the kind they don’t make any more. Just generally giving me that whole “Of course you can fix it or build it yourself, and save a bunch of money, and feel pride in your work” mentality.

    Teaching me how not to kill myself with electricity.

    Taking me on long weekend-morning walks down the ravines of Toronto, or long camping trips across North America, and leaving me with a love of exploring wild places.

    Coming back from field trips to places with romantic, wilderness names like “Abitibi Canyon”, “Kapuskasing”, “Smooth Rock Falls” and “Moosonee”. Places I finally went and visited two years ago.

    Accepting my teenage conversion to fundamentalism as my choice (while keeping a circumspect eye out in case I did anything *really* life-damaging as a result). Telling me, after one frank exchange of views “I don’t agree with what you think, but I like the *way* you think” (and here I am, having thought my way back out again, so I guess he was right). And taking a philosophy degree in his 40’s/50’s, thereby exposing me second-hand to a whole other world of thought.

    Giving me a strong sense of honesty and concern for one’s society — which thoroughly insulated me from the prejudice that you need religion to be good (my parents identified as agnostic).

    Loving my mother for 60 happy years.

  24. chimera says

    My dad was a Babe in the woods, a Christian missionaries’ son who had never been able to swallow religion. It got stuck in his throat and prevented him from speaking very much about anything, ever. I remember his silences which I believed, for so long, to be complicit silences. Last time I saw him, he taught me to count to 10 in Chinese, his first language, the one he had supposedly forgotten. And though Alzheimer’s has taken away most of his words he said, “Why did your mother leave me? I loved her and did nothing wrong.”

  25. angiej says

    Taking us kids to the movies without mom
    His tomatoes – he’s a legend for his love of tomatoes
    Being unable to say photographer or Rhododendron correctly (he has a German accent and messes up the accent)
    Calling his liquor his “medicine”
    Loving James Bond films
    Holding hands with mom
    Swearing at any project that wasn’t working, once, and then it would work
    Him shoveling the patio in December to grill Shish kabob for me for my birthday dinners
    His getting us kids names all mixed up. Now he mixes us up with the grandkids too.
    too many….

  26. Ogvorbis says

    My dad taught me to drive a stick shift. He taught me to ask how and why — beautiful rocks, here’s how and why. He was a park ranger, but spent his life teaching. And still does. He did a pretty damn good job not being his parents. He taught me to argue unfairly. He taught me to ignore pain and only if I couldn’t ignore it could I see a professional. He taught me to throw a curve ball. He taught me to read and to read critically. He taught me to write. He taught me to sing. He tried to teach me to play piano and guitar (well, he succeeded with the guitar). Pluses and minuses. I think the pluses outweigh the minuses.

  27. Sastra says

    A couple days ago my mom called me to tell me she found something. After my dad died several years ago she slowly started going through all his things, There was a drawer at the bottom of one of his cabinets which seemed to contain electrical cords so she left it till now. Underneath the extension wire on top she found a stash of important things he’d saved. Here were all the homemade Father’s Day cards, here were drawings and letters written by his kids. And here was the Memory Book I’d given him for Christmas the first year I was married, over 35 years ago.

    As far as I know, I came up with the idea myself. We had no money so I had to be creative. I bought a blank notebook and on every page I wrote down one good and happy memory I had from my years growing up with him. I haven’t looked at the book again, but I remember some of the things I wrote. I told about how he used to rock me and sing songs from the Kingston Trio when I was very little … and even when I probably wasn’t little enough for that to be comfortable. I remembered the treasure maps he’d make for my brother and me, where we’d spend an hour or so at the beach trying to dig up a piece of Wrigley’s gum, torn in half — and it was so fun. I wrote about my regular bedtime plea to “make up a story and tell me one” and how I listened enraptured to the amazing adventures I had escaping from the Wicked Wazir. And I thanked him for taking me to see Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain after he bought two tickets for me “and a friend” and not one of my high school buddies wanted to go downtown Chicago and see Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain.

    I wondered what ever happened to the Memory Book. After he read it he thanked me profusely and a little awkwardly. I’m glad to know he kept it. I’m glad to know that I can read it again.

  28. microraptor says

    According to my sister, my dad laments his lack of a relationship with me.

    He’s had my whole fucking life to start trying to have one, the lack of one is because what he really wants is for me to spontaneously get into all of his hobbies. She says I need to talk to him more, I say that if he wants to talk to me he can make the first move himself.

  29. John Horstman says

    I don’t have the first clue what the phrase “dad thing” is supposed to mean, though its construction suggests it includes an implicit (unstated) appeal to some normative construction of what a “dad” is. If that’s the case, then it’s inevitably going to be implicitly sexist, classist, racist, ethnocentrist, ageist, and probably biased in all sorts of other horrible ways. Gross.

    So I clicked through; these people don’t have very high opinions of fathers, and perhaps not men in general, if they consider those stories to be related to defining characteristics of the class “Dad”. :-/

  30. mike47 says

    Lost my dad in 2006. COPD – never smoked a day in his life. He was serene and accepting and enjoyed every minute he had. I remember:
    being taken to a university telescope on a cold night to see the moons of Jupiter
    being shown the Milky Way, etc. in the dark desert sky
    fixing whatever needed to be fixed
    “helping” me with my grade school math, but confusing me with math theory – “if you asked him for the time, he would tell you how to build a clock”.
    his lifelong avocation of “ham” radio – sitting on his lap while he talked to someone on the other side of the world
    hearing the pop and crackle of the radio in the night as he worked a contest: “WB6 nancy fox ocean calling CQ, CQ, the handle is Larry, love able roger roger yolk, calling CQ”
    being there for my daughter when I told her (at 11) that her father had died of a sudden heart attack and being there for her wedding
    being there
    (can’t see through these damn tears)

  31. pensnest says

    My Dad
    — cuddled me
    — read to me, in the True Voice of Winnie the Pooh
    — told me the very kindest lies when my mother was killed
    — married a very unpleasant woman with the best of intentions
    — cycled along the towpath on my small-wheeled bike, bellowing encouragement as I rowed in the Fairbairns
    — made a Father of the Bride speech at my wedding that made half the guests cry
    — got very excited when I had a study module on Great War Literature, lent me many useful books, and loved to talk to me about them
    — after he’d had a stroke, and a heart attack, and been worked on for forty minutes in hospital to keep him alive, produced a lopsided grin and a thumbs up when we and his beloved wife arrived to see him
    — died.

    Thank you for this post.

  32. Numenaster says

    My dad apologized for his religiously based disapproval of my marriage to my same-sex partner, 20 years after the fact. Better late than never I guess. To his credit (or perhaps due to Mom) he came to the ceremony and didn’t broadcast his disapproval, but I knew it was there.

    But he also came to have lunch with my at my first day as a permanent employee at his old company, and brought me a bouquet of balloons and told me how proud he was of me. That still makes me tear up.

    I think I’m among the lucky ones, on balance. Hugs to everyone who wants one.

  33. The Mellow Monkey says

    My parents split up when I was three and my father was a very troubled man who killed himself when I was fourteen. I spent little time with him and what time I did spend with him was frequently complicated by his delusions.

    But I know that he took my older sister–already a toddler when he met her–and claimed her as his own. He never saw a difference between the two of us, nor saw my sister’s children as anything but his beloved grandchildren. I know that when I left my favorite doll at his apartment on a visit when I was four, he strapped her to the seat of his motorcycle and delivered her to me. I know that the last words he spoke to my mother–the last known phone call he made before he killed himself–included a plea that she make sure my sister and I have better lives than our parents.

    These are the most dad things he ever did.

  34. gog says

    My dad is a deeply complicated person with as many flaws as he has qualities. The flaws have mostly taken his life in a direction that haven’t worked out very well for any of his children. Growing up, I had this picture of him being a selfish loser with no sense of responsibility for his progeny. When I was 20 I needed a place to go, and he offered to take me in as long as I could hold down a job and contribute to the costs of living. During the time that I lived with him I developed a different picture of him–one that more resembles me; a person that has a strong sense of responsibility, but also takes failures very personally, and sometimes doesn’t recover from them.

    In the past, there are a few things that I have done that made my mother say, “you’re just like your father.” That would cut me down because of the resentment I carried about his absence (which was probably her goal). Thinking back on it now, though, it’s not as bad as it sounded back then. My father, with all of his flaws and failures as a father, isn’t such a terrible person. Being like him in some ways is a good thing, and I can be proud of that.

  35. Alaric says

    Thought of a few good ones.
    -Teaching me to use resedit on saved games to cheat in Might and Magic 2.
    – Buying me Paul Krugman books when I came home reading Thomas Sowell.
    – Teaching me BASIC on the commodore 64 when I was in elementary school.
    -Introducing me to BBS’s at a young age (Although he may regret the phone bill that came with that one.)
    -Of course I cant forget about that awesome zebra fish lab either.

  36. Morgan!? Militant Pacifist, SJW says

    I wish there were a hell so my father could rot there. The only distinct thing he ever revealed of himself is that he hated his four daughters for not being sons.

  37. Ed Seedhouse says

    I was never very fond of my dad, but it seems he did teach my by word and example to be as honest as I can. Ruined all my chances to get rich!

  38. damiki says

    My dad essentially became an orphan at 8 when his mother died giving birth to her ninth child, and his alcoholic father disappeared.

    Somehow he learned to be a dad in spite of it, and taught me how much joy was to be had by going all in on the dad thing.

  39. loreo says

    “Seeing him sketch, seeing the watercolors from his youth, hearing him talk about wanting to be a painter…and then he’d look at his hands, thick and muscular, smudged with dirt and the nails cracked ragged, like he couldn’t understand how this happened.”


    Or, I dunno, maybe the answer ain’t so simple. It’s a rough old world. If that artist’s spark doesn’t get fed, it dims, it can die.

  40. says

    I loved my father deeply, but I also appreciate and laugh at those awkward “dad thing” moments because they’re humanizing. You can love and respect someone who is also the occasional behind the times dope. We all become behind the times dopes eventually. Acknowledging and laughing about that fact is healthy.

    My dad taught me how to hunt for fossils. My dad loved wearing the most horribly ugly pink shirt. My dad taught me how to skip rocks better than anyone. My dad had a lame mustache and farted at the most inappropriate times. He was a hell of a guy, and I miss him every day.

  41. Al Dente says

    My dad showed that he loved my brothers and me. He forgave us when we screwed up and apologized when he screwed up. He was there when we needed him and even when we didn’t. He praised our successes and sympathized over our failures. He offered his advice when he thought it would be helpful but never complained if the advice was disregarded. He never said: “I told you so” whenever he had told us so. He taught us useful things like bike riding and machinery repair as well as not so useful things like stone skipping.

    Most of all, my dad taught us that we weren’t better than anyone else. We might be more fortunate than someone but that was luck, not due to anyone else’s faults. He taught us that people cannot help being the people they were born being, so race, sexual orientation, size, intelligence, etc, are not things to despise.

    My dad died a few years ago. I miss him. I try to be as good a dad to my kids as he was to me.

  42. ludicrous says

    I have next to no good memories of my father, but no really bad memories, except when he would whip me with his belt. He was very critical and I struggle against that trait a lot. He worked 12 hours a day except Sunday in all his years that I knew of. Now I feel really sad when I think how hard it was for him to provide for 4 kids and a wife who developed a long term cancer. I suppose all that were factors in my deciaion not to marry and have a family. I think his experience, even though I never thought about it at the time, scared the shit out of me.

  43. Alex the Pretty Good says

    This post made me misty-eyed when I thought back to all my father has done for me in the first 33 years of my life. He:
    – Unconditionally loved me and my siblings equally;
    – Took the encyclopedia to answer our “what / why / how” questions when we were younger;
    – Bought me a “history for children” book about prehistory when at 6 years old I was absolutely fascinated by the few dinosaur toys we had in our toy-chest;
    – Always treated my older siblings as his own. It took me until my early teens to actually be fully aware what it meant that they are my half-siblings;
    – Raced to the hospital the day I dislocated my elbow at school. Was sitting next to my bed when I came out of surgery;
    – Worked in the vegetable garden with me. Every year we got better at getting a varied and abundant crop.
    – Worked his whole life to ensure that we would be able to get the education we wanted to follow and supported us no matter what direction we decided to follow;
    – Was misty-eyed with pride when I gave him a copy of my Master’s dissertation;
    – Walked my wife to the altar at her request (her father had left her family when she was 5 years old);
    – Downplayed the pain he suffered from his seeded prostate cancer because he didn’t want us to worry about something that can’t be changed;
    – Told us what kind of life-extending care he absolutely did not want and trusted us to respect his wishes;
    – Smiled at the first echo of his first grand-child;
    – Died the morning after seeing that first echo.

    If I will still be able to become a father, I profoundly hope that I will be as good a father as he was.

  44. larrylyons says

    Thank you. It was a bit different for me, just the area mostly – Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario, but the feeling was exactly the same. What I remember with fondness was the long walks in the woods wondering about everything.

    Thanks Professor Meyers.

  45. colonelzen says

    For the alcoholism and other negatives I forgive. And the other “dopey dad things” pale in comparison to the one that ultimately left its mark deepest in making me what I am, mostly for the best, I think, though I hope I’ve learned to moderation in the lesson.
    …. Getting up at 5 AM *Every* damned weekday, and every Saturday, and going in to work, being their until 5:30 or 6 at night, sometimes later, until he felt his job was done (he was a floor manager).
    It wasn’t until much, much later I understood how much he was used and abused by his company for even by those days standards relatively low pay for the time he put in (and piss poor retirement to boot). But I think even he understood it wasn’t so much about the job and money as defining himself and holding himself together despite his other shortcomings as something he could be think of himself about with pride to leverage the other good things he managed in his life and hold at bay some of the other bad.
    Now, with much better understandings of psychology and pharmacology (and our genetic heritage) I think I understand some things about him better than he ever had opportunity to know, much less actively learn how to control.
    But that work ethic, burned into me and my brothers by example deeper than words has served us well, and I’ve passed it – almost effortlessly on my part – to my daughters in whom I see my father’s echo in their willingness, perhaps over eagerness to bury themselves in their work, but who make me achingly proud in their striving and achievements in their young adult lives.

    — TWZ

  46. says

    Wow, my father. I’m so lucky.

    -was always very proud and happy about being a father
    -played “Bear” with us, the game where he was a bear that would magically fall asleep if we uttered the magic word (sometimes).
    -told bedtime stories about the Bezungis, a bizarre family of large, bright purple dodo-looking birds who lived in a treehouse and were continually getting in accidents with telephone poles and mud muddles
    -played (plays) the button accordion
    -was an actual chimney sweep for a while
    -built, with my mom, a house, despite being a skinny kid from Staten Island with 2 kids and one on the way–it was a terrible, inefficient design, but they did it. Impressive, now that I think about it.
    -was the King (twice) of the Eastern Kingdom in the SCA
    -taught me to appreciate the World Cup with his love of soccer

    I could go on. He’s pretty swell. I owe him a lot. Both my folks.

  47. Azuma Hazuki says

    Mine…is not doing well. He tried, he really did, but he wasn’t cut out for children (and so of course had 3…).

    He lost it in 2003 and he and my mother finally split last year. As of now he is about to be homeless, couchsurfing with some odious relatives. He is 60 and will likely never work again, overweight and on more SSRIs, blood pressure meds, and Odinn alone knows what else…

    …he tried. He didn’t cheat, smoke, gamble, shoot up, or do drugs. He made decent money while he was working. But my parents are two damaged people who tried to un-damage one another, and it worked as well as you’d expect. They should have split 20 years ago.

    I will say this: the man is fundamentally honest. He doesn’t take shit from anyone except himself, but he bullshits himself constantly. He was there for me during an incident in college I don’t care to relate now. And he was wonderful about my coming out (“You know, Marissa, your mother’s known since you were 4…”).

    I wish we could have more of a relationship, but I can barely hold my own life together and struggle check to check. We’ll have to see what happens. Overall, not a bad man by any means, but weak, and he damaged me and my sister a good deal.

  48. unclefrogy says

    what an interesting post and what a lot of very revealing comments.
    Probably why I keep coming back to read. always a surprising turn and no trolls this time. I used to be ashamed about my own father it felt like some kind of a problem that reflected on me some how. I was always afraid of being judged, my Mom was always afraid like that it was the time and place I grew up in. He was gone for most of my life and I could say I hardly knew him.
    He got lost some where in his life and I do not know much about him I knew is mother my grandmother and that explained a lot I learned a little about him.
    I have tried to be a Dad best I could but I did not have much to go on when I started. There were things I never learned at the appropriate time but that is the past and nothing can be done to change that but we do not live there it is now and I keep going forward. I did get much from Dad mostly absence but I can admit I did and still do love him though I did not really know him or do much with him.
    uncle frogy

  49. call me mark says

    I lost my dad at the end of May this year. It still hurts.

    I feel so privileged to have been his son.

    Sorry I can’t carry on typing this, my eyes are filling up. But thanks PZ

  50. Dr Marcus Hill Ph.D. (arguing from his own authority) says

    Reading these comments now is making me want to leave work and go and hug my son. I’m not sure whether it’s the good or bad experiences that make me feel that way more!

  51. Crimson Clupeidae says

    I have weird, mixed emotions about my dad. There were some times that were great, and a lot that…just weren’t. My parents split (mom literally left in the middle of the night to escape) when I was 5, leaving my with my older and ounger brother, with my dad, a rather self centered 27 year old Air Farce enlistee who really wanted nothing more than to be single and party again. Most of the time, I just felt like I was an anchor, and dad would rather be doing something, anything, else, than spending time with me or my brothers. He was largely absent for many years, since he worked swing shift or graveyard shift. So for a few years, when I was ~8-10, I only saw him on weekends. I was one of the original latchkey kids.

    When our interests vaguely overlapped his, though, he was great. I fondly remember all the time we spent tearing down and rebuilding cars (ours, our neighbors, anyone else’s that needed work). And, he was a pilot. I was the only one that really had any interest, and dad and I used to go flying…almost every weekend when we were both in the Civil Air Patrol.

  52. says

    * The tale of “Prop Man” — something about a dead guy with a prop through him out in BFE coming back to haunt his fellow airmen. I can’t remember ever making it through a full telling, because child-me was easily frightened.

    * Hugs. Dad-hugs have always been the best.

    * Cooking. Dad-cooking is always interesting (he likes to experiment with food), and very rarely of the ick.

    * Every time we have occasion to sing “Happy Birthday”, he hams it up and goes, like, super-baritone on the last line, and draws out the last “you”. (This might need to be heard for the full effect.)

    * Converted the garage into a wheelchair-friendly studio apartment. (My current home.)