It’s Father’s Day. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that it’s because of my Dad this blog exists, because of him, my expectations of men are sky high, and, because of him, my dreams of the future are so wildly unrealistic. Predictably, my relationships with other men have been predetermined, filtered through, by my relationship with my father. Call it whatever syndrome or complex you like, but no man is ever going to live up to my Dad; no man is going to be more generous, thoughtful, hilarious, ridiculous, inspiring, driven, loyal, witty, or talented than my Dad. It’s just a fact. Get over it.
One thing my Dad does is give advice. He’s very serious about giving advice; he loves to sit me down and tell me exactly what to do. If I need help with something, am scared, or worried, or overwhelmed, I just call my Dad. He’s got a level head, and he’s confident, and he’ll always know exactly what to do. He can talk me off any ledge. It used to drive me crazy – all the advice and bossing around – but after college, I realized that if I asked him advice on things that he was really knowledgeable about, that he would lay off the other stuff. Stuff I was “taking care of.” And the stuff I need help with, well, I can always count on Dad to have the answer, to know what to do.
Dad is also famous in our family for certain “Dad-isms” – things he says on a fairly regular basis that accurately sum up a thought or philosophy he holds, that you may or may not share. One of our favorites is when he says, “It’s premature to prioritize.” Now my Dad may be all of the things above, and more, but one thing he is not is organized. He’s famous for being hours late, for forgetting the most important thing and for being unable to find whatever he is looking for, especially if it’s right in front of him. Having three organized, on-time, eagle-eyed daughters drives him a little crazy. If we’re trying to plan a vacation, or pack for a trip, or get everybody rounded up for dinner, make a list, it makes him antsy…, “now, girls,” he says, “I think it’s a little premature to start prioritizing.” Of course, we girls think it’s never too early to start thinking about what to do and what order to do it in!
Another thing he loves to say is, “that much, huh?” Dad is the king of the deal, a bargain hunter and an excellent negotiator. One of his favorite games is, “get the biggest Christmas tree on the lot for $10.” He’ll wear the poor Christmas tree salesman down, prodding and joking, flipping the lingo until he gets exactly what he wants. And rug salesman beware; the last time we went to Seattle he spent the entire afternoon in a rug shop. He finally finagled enough to get the rug he wanted for half the price and convinced the salesman to throw in three pairs of embroidered Turkish boots and three Pashmina scarves for his daughters.
Of course, because he’s such a deal hound, he’s always asking what I paid for something. If I bring home a new dress, a whole chicken from the grocery or get the car washed, I can be assured he’ll ask me how much I spent. And, every single time, no matter if I paid full price, half of the suggested retail price or $1 for a brand new luxury car, he’ll say “that much, huh?” It’s always too much and he could have done better.
Lately Dad has taken to saying “coming to terms with.” “Josh (what he calls me), we’re going to have to come to terms with the recycling.” Coming to terms means to change one’s thinking, to come up with a better solution and to get it done. No more hemming and hawing and limping around with how things are currently being done. The status quo is no longer acceptable; we must strive for a superior resolution. “Josh, we’re going to have to come to terms with the garage,” or “we’re going to have to come to terms with the pet situation…or the stack of invoices in the out box…or the piles of recreational equipment in the basement.” I usually like to respond with, “I think it’s premature to prioritize, Dad.” But, then I think about whatever he wants me to come to terms with and fix it.
I’ve never asked my Dad for dating or relationship advice and thankfully, he’s rarely offered his opinion. Having been married 40 years to my Mom (p.s. today is their wedding anniversary as well) I know he’s a bit baffled by my singlehood and would probably have little advice considering his experience has been so different than mine. However, I’ve decided that if I did ask him, he’d probably just tell me that it’s about time I “come to terms with it all.” And he’s right.
I need to change how I think. Feeling sorry for myself is not a better solution. Feeling lonely is a lame-o status quo. Wishing and hoping for a fairy tale romance is unrealistic and unproductive. And expecting any man to be as impressive a figure as my Dad is unfair.
The fact is, at this point, it’s unlikely I’ll ever have a 40th wedding anniversary. I may end up as someone’s second wife. I may be a stepmother. I may be in my mid-30s and still living with roommates instead of a partner. I may have my first child after the age of 40. I may marry someone who is the same height as myself and bald. I may never get married. I may never have children. I may have to make the most out of being an aunt or a Godmother. I may end up with someone who is a good father, or a good husband, but not a very good provider. I may get a divorce. I may end up with someone who prefers watching televised sports over reading, someone who doesn’t help out with the laundry, a workaholic or a Scorpio.
I need to come to terms with the fact that just because I held certain relationship ideals in the past, doesn’t mean those ideals can’t flex and change, and it doesn’t make them lesser because they are different. The world is a different place than it was 40 years ago, when my Dad, pre-fatherhood, married my mother. I need to come to terms with the fact that what my parents have doesn’t necessarily translate to my world, my time and my experience. I need to come to terms with, “this is me and this is now.” And just because my present isn’t what I planned for and expected, doesn’t mean that my future is not going to be great.
So, Happy Father’s Day, Dad; thanks to you, I’m prioritizing “coming to terms,” even if it’s a little premature.