Father’s Day is bittersweet. On the one hand, I have my kids. They are as excited about giving me their homemade cards and whatever they grabbed from their rooms to glue together as I am about getting them. On the other hand, even if I did glue something together from my room, I wouldn’t be able to give it to my dad. His life was cut short over 5 years ago. No more golf shirts. No more coupons written in crayon for free hugs (those things never get old). No more Saturday drives.
Usually around 10:30 in the morning, on Saturdays, during my oldest daughter’s first year of life, there would be a car idling in front of my house, honking intermittently trying to get my attention. It was my dad. It was time for our Saturday Drive.
I would buckle Hannah in to her car-seat in the back and jump into the front seat with my dad and we would just drive. No destination, except for a stop at McDonald’s for coffees (He had already been there three times before picking us up. The man beat alcoholism but not quite caffeine.) and chocolate chip cookies for Hannah. There was no other schedule to keep. It was just a drive with my dad behind the wheel, me in the front seat and Hannah in the back quickly making a mess of her cookies.
Sometimes we wouldn’t talk much at all and sometimes neither of us could shut up. We’d talk about work, or politics, or family. We’d laugh at the chocolate around Hannah’s mouth that now looked like lipstick. He would drive through the city and show me places and navigate down streets I hadn’t known existed. We sipped our coffees, listened to Frank Sinatra, and turned whenever we got the urge.
After an hour or two, the ride was over. Our coffee cups empty. Hannah had either fallen asleep, had a diaper that had to be changed for the sake of everyone’s health in the car, or one of us had to go to the bathroom. He would bring us back to where we started, in front of my house. I gave him a kiss, told him “Love you Pop”, he told me he loved me, and Hannah and I went home (and he no doubt went back to McDonald’s for another coffee).
I don’t know how to explain exactly how I felt about our Saturday drives except to say, in a lot of ways, our drives are one of the things I miss the most about my dad. I didn’t have to share him with anyone (unless you count Hannah but she was preoccupied with the cookies). I had his undivided attention and I gave him mine. I wanted to hear his laugh. I wanted to talk to him. I just wanted to be sitting next to him because he was my dad. He was everything I wanted to be when I was a kid. He was the strongest person I knew. He was the toughest. He could be a lumberjack, a teacher, a teammate, a mechanic, a cook (sparingly), and anything else the situation called on him to be.
I don’t think about my Saturday drives with my dad because it is Father’s Day. I think about those drives and everything else about my dad, every day of my life. I see his face every day. The kids do something that reminds me of him every day. I do something that reminds my wife of him (I tell her I come by it honestly which doesn’t seem to help) just about every day. I can hear him talking to me, saying my name, telling me he loves me every day. And I’m thankful. I’m thankful that I had such a powerful influence in my life now that I am a father. I’m thankful I was able to spend that time with my dad. I’m thankful that I have all of these things to hold on to but if I could, I’d ask to have one more thing. I would ask to hear his car horn honking outside of my door in the morning, because I would want so badly to go on our Saturday drive.