understanding my dad

i live about 220 miles from my dad. it was not my choice to live where i live, but that is the hand that has been dealt for now. i have been having conversations with friends and trying to understand more about my dad, the way he was when i was growing up. not conversations about him in particular, but conversations about their own interactions with their dad’s growing up.

there is a cliché about youth being wasted on the young. i know that when i became a father enlightenment about being a dad did not follow. we do not come with an instruction booklet so we each have to do the best we can.

anyway i went to see dad this weekend – my children had not seen him in a few months and they needed to see their grandfather – but not nearly as much as i needed to see my dad. while the children entertained themselves with cars and dominoes on the floor, i was able to talk to my dad.

i just recently celebrated a birthday and i am now the age my dad was when i was born. i have a cushy office job. my dad did not. dad worked hard in the chemical plants where we grew up – that job nearly killed him but dad kicked cancer’s butt. anyway i am ‘tired’ when i get home, but after i pick up my children they want to play outside – which i happily encourage – after all we have no tv.

my son has played baseball for the last few years and he likes to throw with me – what is better than playing a game of catch with dad? in a couple more years he will be old enough for kid pitch and i am sure that he will want to try to be a pitcher. i think back to my own life 30+ years ago when i could not wait for dad to get home so that i could pitch to him.

now i know that after a long day in that plant that the furthest thing from my dad’s idea of fun in coming home was to grab that catchers mitt and have his son throw baseballs at him. remember also my name is quinn maddux – not greg maddux, so i did not have that pinpoint control. believe me taking a baseball to the shin is not good times – but not once did my dad complain. not. one. single. time.

dad was not what i would call a sports fan. he watched games with me, he took me to games. did he have a rooting interest – doubtful. he just wanted to be entertained. and when he was done with something that was it. but he made sure that if i wanted to go to a game that it happened. he would drive me to the game we would watch, i would fall asleep on the way home. he would pick me up and get me put into bed from the car. get himself cleaned up and ready for bed. then get up the next morning and go to work, while my lazy sorry butt slept in.

i told dad that i know that i have never said thank you for that. i never said thank you for trying to teach me to be a man. i have said before i am no where near the man my father was. if i am compared side by side to my dad i would pale in comparison. big time.

so i tell him all of this – how grateful that i am that he did that, how i wish that i had said thank you more to him. i cant say thanks to mom because she has been gone a decade now. but dear old dad is going strong. dad sat there stoic, and after i finished he said – thanks son. he said when you go out to the well you never know if it has run dry until you drop the bucket down to the bottom. everyone just assumes that water is there, but you dont know there is a problem until the bucket comes back empty. in other words son i just did not know any better. i did not know how to be a dad, but if it was something that you wanted to do then we were going to do it.

i just wish that i had come to this realization a long time ago.