My dad was almost never on time, but he always showed up.
When I was in elementary school, Gene was a postman. He always wore an official postal service-blue pith helmet to protect his head from the sun, carried a skinny can of dog-spray and drove a super cool mail truck with low built-in benches in the back that I was not allowed to ride in. Strictly forbidden by the US Postal Service.
But occasionally my ride home would fall through and I’d be left sitting knock-kneed on the school steps staring off into the suburban distance, until eventually I’d see the mail truck swiftly turn the corner and come to an abrupt halt on the curb in front of me. Dad would slide open the door, shush me with a finger to his lips and then I’d climb into the back and crouch down the whole way home so I wouldn’t be spotted and get him in trouble at work.
When I was in high school my dad drove like, the most embarrassing car EVAH. He had a Toyota Corolla station wagon the heinously obnoxious color of Gulden’s Mustard. And what could be more humiliating than to be 14 and get picked up in a horn-honking, mustard-colored dad-mobile? Well, my haircut for one thing but that’s another story.
But Gene was hustling his ass off in real estate by this time and when my ride fell through, he’d come whipping into the school parking lot about 20 minutes after everyone else had left to run me home before his next appointment. During those years, it was the least amount of witnesses, the better and so I didn’t mind that he was late.
By the time I got to college, I’d been driving the 2-door maroon Mustang he bought me when I was 16 for a few years and he was forever coming to my rescue for flat tires, dead batteries, and fender-benders. When I was 22, I hit a curb and blew out a tire at the ungodly hour of 2am. After he dragged himself from slumber and drove the half hour to where I was stranded, my father found me waiting alone in the driver’s seat, doors locked, on the side of a dark, lonely road.
The need for my father to “pick me up” continued on far longer than he bargained for, as I stayed single long after most of the people I went to school with, leaving him with no son-in-law to pass his duties along to. He moved me what must’ve felt like a million times. He put furniture together, fixed my leaky toilet, helped me shop for cars, gave me rides to the airport, slipped me money, mowed my lawn, didn’t say what he was thinking when I brought loser boyfriends home time after time. He took my dogs on walks, took my garbage out, brought me soup when I was sick and taught me how to change a tire but never asked that I actually do it.
What makes a father? Showing up is half the battle. Always showing up is the whole damn thing.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddio.