Father’s Day is a few weeks behind us now, but I’m still thinking about Dads. Specifically, I’m thinking about some of my favorite Dads.
Sometimes it seems like Bad Dads are everywhere. Usually, the evening news features some kind of Bad Dad. Movies and television shows feature good dads, but the Bad Dads seem to get more publicity. You’re still more likely to hear "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" or "Cats In The Cradle" on the radio than any song about a good dad. As a matter of fact, it’s hard to think of a song about a good dad. If you think of one, let me know.
Part of the reason for this is that Good Dads, much like Good Moms, are too busy getting on with the business of being decent parents to launch massive publicity campaigns for themselves. Which is a shame, because Good Dads (and Moms, of course) sometimes need a pat on the back. They’re doing important work.
I’d now like you to meet some of my favorite Dads. I’m going to begin with six friends of mine who are dads, listed chronologically from when I met them. The funny thing about these guys is that only two of them actually know each other, but they all know of each other. In fact, I’ve discovered over the last few years a chain of coincidences that links these guys with me and with each other. Of course, the coincidences don’t mean anything, but to me they serve as proof that I didn’t meet any of these men by accident. The year I met them is in parentheses. And, just for fun, I’ve listed some of the coincidences in brackets at the end of a few of the dads’ descriptions.
Matt W. (1986)—Maddy and Hayden’s Dad. Matt and I have known each other since college. His and Sue’s daughter, Madelyn, was born on our fifth wedding anniversary, a few weeks before Jimmy was born. The great thing about my friendship with Matt is that the changes in life we’ve each gone through (marriage, home ownership, children, etc) have been very easily absorbed into our friendship, allowing it to become both deeper and wider in the process.
Eric (1995)—Luke and Julian’s Dad. Eric and I got to know each other after meeting on a business trip in Norfolk, Virginia. When we met up again in New Orleans in October of 1996, he was the proud father of a seven-month-old boy and I was contemplating the idea that, if all went well, I’d be a dad within the next year. He and I had some great conversations that week and I returned from New Orleans with a little more reassurance that I could be a dad than I had when I arrived there. Our friendship has continued to grow and, although it hasn’t happened yet, someday our complete families will meet. [Eric and Matt W. both told me the same story about how much of an effect hearing the same R.E.M. song live had on them. Also, Matt lives in the same town as Eric’s sister-in-law, which is really weird because neither Eric nor his wife, Tatiana, are from anywhere around that particular town.]
Mark (1997)—Chris and Jen’s step-dad.
Matt G. (1998)—Aleah, Mitchell and Nathan’s Dad. I met Matt after Donna met his wife, Lisa, through a church group. Matt is just an all-around decent man and a fun guy to hang around with. We always find a lot to talk about when our families get together. Matt is also quite adept at home repair (which was a great help to us when Jimmy locked us out of our bedroom) and, of all these dads, he’s got the most recent arrival, Nathan, who was born just a few weeks ago. [Matt G. and Matt W. were born on exactly the same day. In exactly the same year.]
Pat (1998)—Ryan’s Dad. We started taking Jimmy to church when he was around three or four months old. Pat, who attends the same church as us, began to notice that we seemed to be doing OK bringing a baby to church, so he started to bring Ryan, who is just less than three months younger than Jimmy. Then we noticed Pat and Ryan and eventually began to say hello to them after mass. Before too long, Pat and Ryan and Jimmy and me were meeting for playdates in the park. The kids didn’t interact at all at first (they were way too young for that) but now Jimmy and Ryan are best buddies. Pat and I have become very good friends and, although he and I have never really talked about this, I love the fact that our friendship can be a model for our sons’ friendship. [Pat and I are almost exactly the same age apart as Jimmy and Ryan. Pat and I had exactly the same SAT score. No, I’m not going to tell you what that score was.]
Reading over this list, I can’t believe how fortunate I have been to meet six other men in approximately the same place in their lives as I am in mine, all of whom have become excellent friends to me. Besides, that, all of them are great Dads. It’s almost enough to make me get sappy, but I’ll save the sappiness for my own Dad. I will say that what I’ve learned about fatherhood and friendship from Matt, Eric, Mark, Kevin, Matt and Pat has been enormous. Thanks, guys!
My All Time Favorite Dad is my own father, Jim Wilhelm. Like a lot of fathers and adult sons, Dad and I aren’t the most physically demonstrative guys, but I think our feelings toward each other are clear. At recent Sunday dinners, Dad has occasionally mentioned that he feels like he was not around for my sister, Lisa, and me as much as he might have been. Lisa and I always refute this immediately and tell him that it’s not how we remember growing up at all. I think my Dad has heard that awful "Cats in the Cradle" song too many times. But, just in case Dad isn’t quite convinced, I’ve come up with a list of some of my favorite Dad moments.
Above all else, my father let me be myself. I don’t ever remember my dad pushing me to be just like him. He let me become my own person, which is obvious to anyone who knows both of us—we are two very different adults in many ways. Despite whatever differences we have, Dad and I still have very much in common, and in some ways I think I’m just now becoming a little bit more like him. I’ll occasionally say something to which Donna responds, "You sound just like your dad." I consider that to be a high compliment.
So, Dad, thank you for everything! I love you (I told you I was going to get sappy). I figure that if I approach fatherhood with half of the love, humor, patience and fun that you have, I’ll consider myself a pretty good father.
(Please feel free to email to others who may be interested or to print hard copy for them but remember: The Dichotomy of the Dog is copyright 2000 by Rich Wilhelm. If you plan on making a bazillion dollars from this piece of writing,
please let me know so I can sue you or something.)