My dad wasn’t perfect, not in the way that 1950s dads were portrayed on television. Unlike Ward Cleaver on “Leave it to Beaver” or Jim Anderson on “Father Knows Best,” my father never had a heart-to-heart talk with me.
Dad and I didn’t have tea parties or color together or play board games. He never disciplined me, leaving that to my mother.
When I was very young, Dad traveled five days a week for his job. When he was home, he had paperwork to do. My only concept of paperwork was the phonics sheets I had to fill out in first and second grades. I felt bad for Daddy, still working on phonics at his age, and I resented the time he spent at his desk.
My dad wasn’t young when I was born; he’d just turned 41. Other kids’ dads threw them up in the air, lifted them up on their shoulders, rode them piggyback. My dad was too “old.”
Dad and I didn’t play games, but he showed me how to swing a golf club when I was 4, though that was as far as I went with golf. We planted pine trees in the front yard together at our house in Savannah; we planted gladiolas in Atlanta. He taught me the basics of swimming and how to dive. I loved going out in the ocean with him at Tybee Beach.
The day I got my first two-wheel bicycle, he took me out in the driveway so I could show him what I’d learned on my own. I rode right in front of a car, narrowly missing it, and scaring him to death. Years later, with Dad on my new English bike and me on my old Huffy, we rode around the neighborhood together.
Dad didn’t play Candy Land with me when I was a kid, but he taught me how to play poker when I was a teenager.
Our thing was movies. Dad, my sisters and I or sometimes just Dad and I would go to “picture shows,” as he called them.
I remember one Sunday in Atlanta going to see “Swiss Family Robinson” at one of the great old movie houses. Dad and I loved that movie.
Later, we would see Clint Eastwood movies, “Bonnie and Clyde,” and “The Godfather” and “The Godfather, Part II.” Daddy liked gangster flicks.
The last movie we saw together was “Islands in the Stream,” based on a novel by Ernest Hemingway. Dad died about 10 days later.
Dad liked to drive, and I do, too. He loved it when I got my first car — a 4-speed manual Toyota Corolla — and he could drive a straight-shift again. Though I must say, he wasn’t too pleased when we went to pick out the car. I insisted on a manual transmission, but I could barely drive the car out of the parking lot. (I taught myself to drive a straight shift pronto.)
Dad wasn’t patient. He worked too much. He wasn’t a helicopter Dad by any means, but he filled our house with friends and stories and laughter. After he died, the house was so quiet. Thirty-six years later, I still miss his laugh.
So, to all the imperfect dads, I say, Happy Father’s Day. You are loved despite your imperfections and maybe more because of them.