What Do You Do With Father's Day When You Grew Up With a Deadbeat Dad?

Father's Day: Probably up there with Secretary's Day as a holiday dud. There's no special dinner or prepackaged tradition, and unfortunately for me, no magical character at it's center.


Even for those of you lucky enough to have a dad worthy of celebration, society just doesn't put much stock in the celebration of Dad. The accepted tradition is to reward dads years of sacrifice with ... a tie.

Father's Days in my household came and went with relative ease. Some years, Dad lived in another country; others, another state. Even when he was simply across the Brooklyn Bridge, a begrudged well-wishing more than sufficed. I could have put some energy into a gift but, honestly, on any given year, out of his 20 children, I'm one of two or three who ever bothered to call. Even as a t'ween, I felt that was present enough.

So I would dial, hoping for the answering machine. Inescapably, some woman, wife number 3 ... 5 ... 7 -- who could keep track -- would answer. Never knowing who exactly I was talking to, I'd just mutter, "Is my dad there?" In a thick Caribbean accent, she would call for him and leave me suspended. As I waited, I often would imagine what he was doing -- lifting weights, waxing his car … "Oh, who cares?"

Eventually, he'd pick up. Quick, let me just give him what I dialed for ... "Happy Father's day, Dad!" Like clockwork, that would be his cue to respond, "And happy birthday … uh, how old are you now?" Sometimes he'd guess. He was usually a year off.

I was 2 days old on Father's Day 1976. Makes it pretty easy to remember. Maybe it's asking too much for him to call me first. He certainly never did.

We can't choose our dads. There are so many things I've wished he was there for; so many experiences I wished we could have had together. But, you know, a lot us have suck-ass ones. I'm not special for that.

Father's Day for me is usually just a reminder of what should be, but that's about to change. This time around, paternity shifts. Son soon becomes father.

I have a daughter on the way and, unlike my dad, I take fatherhood incredibly seriously. Whether she knows it or not, she can thank him for that. Sometimes the best examples are simply based on what not to do.

In a few years, when she is old enough to show me annual gratitude for a job well done, I'll proudly tighten that double Windsor, around my neck, kiss her little face and thank her for the opportunity to be the father I never had.

I write this sincerely to all the Rad Dads. Happy Father's Day.

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