What fathers do

Some fathers do these things.

Some fathers go to the Columbus Public Library used book sale in about 1980 and buy five big boxes of books on every topic. They place those books in a playroom and they result in a consistently relevant personal library for his kids. Every year they learn something new out of that room.

Some fathers take their sons and daughters to Computer Express, a small computer shop, after taking you to Radio Shack and Sun TV and deciding the prices there are too high. Some fathers help you decide on an Atari 800XL with tape drive and they buy you River Raid to go with it.

Some fathers buy you a modem and let you call BBSes all night.

They take you to Boy Scouts and help you win the local Pinewood Derby. They drive you to Bell Labs where you learn UNIX and shell scripting.

Some fathers sit with you and type in programs out of the back of ANTIC Magazine.

They convince the family it wants a dog and picks a special breed, a Kerry Blue Terrier, because it doesn’t shed.

They get drunk at the Sheraton hotel bar happy hour and fall out of the car and turn you off alcohol until late in college. That’s when you really find you have a taste for it.

Some fathers help you with your science fair projects and explore wind power with you by making balsa wood models of various generators.

Some fathers give you phone wire, broken stereos, and a soldering iron and tell you to experiment. You do. Some fathers have a garage full of tools and show you how to cut wood and fix brakes and listen to NPR on a broken radio.

Some fathers buy you a Packard Bell 286 and help you learn programming.

Some fathers leave a basket of vinyl in the basement and in it you find Dylan, the Stones, and Janis Joplin, thereby making you the least pop-culturally-aware high schooler in Columbus.

Some fathers work for 40 years at the same boring job to pay for a house and food.

Some fathers take you to Europe and show you the magic of travel. They buy you Mad Magazine in German.

They take you to Mad Magazine’s offices in Manhattan where you meet Dick DiBartolo, Nick Meglin, and Bill Gaines. That could inspire you to be a writer.

They marvel at your new novel, The Tale of the White Worm, you write when you’re twelve. They edit your school essays and, one night, they write an entire research paper about The Crucible for you because you’re sick.

Some fathers drive you from college to college looking for the right one. Then some fathers come drive you back from the right college every summer because you don’t have a car.

Some fathers help you sell your car when you move to Poland for work.

Some fathers come to your wedding in Warsaw.

They Skype you almost every day, leaving cryptic messages and posting links from Craigslist. Some fathers listen to Rush Limbaugh all day because he’s a pleasant distraction.

Some fathers drive twelve hours to visit you in Brooklyn.

Some fathers get grumpy.

Some fathers still make you laugh.

Some fathers get lung cancer.

Some fathers make you scared.

Their failing health encourages you to run again and quit drinking because watching a man who looks so much like you get sick is frightening. But it also encourages you to reconnect with him.

I know: Some fathers beat you. Some fathers leave you. Some fathers die early. Some fathers are cruel. Some fathers die inside.

But some of us get lucky.

Some fathers are great. Some fathers are kind. Some fathers educate, expand, and elucidate. Some fathers give all.

Some of us get lucky.

Happy Father’s Day.