I would have wished my husband a Happy Father’s Day this morning, but I couldn’t find him.
Rick always – and I mean, always – wakes up before I do, so having to hunt him down is not something with which I am unfamiliar.
I looked in the kitchen, where he normally empties the dishwasher, but he wasn’t there.
I looked in the laundry room, where he often passes time making up for a week of dirty clothes on Sunday mornings, but he wasn’t there.
I looked in the driveway, where he might be washing both cars, but he wasn’t there and both cars were in the garage, which meant he wasn’t off filling mine up with gas because I have a long trip tomorrow. Then I remembered he did that yesterday.
I looked in the basement and saw only an empty treadmill, which he uses not because he likes to walk really fast or to sweat – he truly does not enjoy doing either — but because he wants to control his blood pressure and lower any risk that he will leave his children at a young age.
Then I remembered and looked out our living room window and sure enough, there he was, shovel in hand and big smile on his dripping face, standing next to a large mound of dirt wearing old ratty jeans and a soaked Alabama t-shirt (bought in for five bucks when I was doing a story there a couple hundred years ago) at 8:30 in the morning.
I’m sure many fathers this morning are working jobs they’d rather not be working. I’m just as sure there are many out golfing, at the gym, sleeping or having a nice breakfast. I’m pretty sure not many are standing next to a big pile of dirt and kind of liking it.
Why would my husband be standing next to a big pile of dirt on Father’s Day morning or any morning, you ask? Well, I will tell you.
Because it’s a given that when your family is still trying to make up for your wife’s lost job’s wages and agonizing over your new insurance premiums that are about to go up 135 percent, someone is going to tell you that if you don’t replace your roof and soon, you won’t have one. And just when you have digested that, while getting your kids off to school with your wife out of town, you’re going to walk into your laundry room and see several inches of sludge-filled water coursing out of the drain on the floor. And you’re going to know, because you just went through this last year, that this means your front yard, including the shrubbery you just planted, is going to be dug up in order to locate the pipe that just burst.
Because you just went through this and because you’re a man who pays close attention to such things, you also suspect they will do something while trying to find the pipe that will make the repair even tougher and the job more expensive. What you don’t know yet, even though you tried to warn them, is that they are also going to bust up your sprinkler system in the process.
So you watch them dig and listen to them explain why they just cost you several thousand more dollars, and instead of yelling at them – because you are not the type of man to do that – you go into the house and get your camera and your 12-year-old son and you start taking pictures of exactly where the broken sprinkler pipe and shredded wires are, so that when they cover the hole, you will know where to find them so you can fix them yourself.
Then you take the son who shares your passion for fixing things to the hardware store – and even bring your almost-15-year-old complaining daughter along (on the way to taking her to get a second piercing in her ear) – and make a fun project out of the whole thing.
Even though you weigh only marginally more than the shovel you’re using and you’re of a religious persuasion that enjoys jokes about how challenged their men are at fixing things, you spend the better part of a Saturday digging the dirt back out of the hole they used a crane to fill.
Of course, you can’t find the sprinkler pipe or the wires right away, despite the pictures, so you dig way more dirt than you planned. But you still don’t get in a foul mood and take it out on the family the way your wife might, and even clean up in time to spend the entire day with them.
And then on Father’s Day, you wake up before anyone else in the neighborhood, put on the jeans your daughter thinks are embarrassing (though they’re better than the acid-washed pair you usually wear for jobs like this) and locate the wires, which produces the proud and dirty smile you flash your wife, who has arisen several hours later.
But you still don’t finish the job. You come in and shower (since you’re a very hygienic kind of guy, even though you don’t mind dirt) because you know your son won’t wake up for several more hours and you promised him he could help connect all the wires.
None of this sounds the least bit fun to your wife and truthfully, you would have preferred to just finish the job. But you know your son is looking forward to it and because of that, you are too.
This is your idea of a good Father’s Day.
This is your family’s idea of a great father.
(Happy Father’s Day, honey! We love you.)