This is the first time I can remember meeting my dad. I was seven. Sometime just before I turned one he took a six year trip to the store to buy milk and came back with his girlfriend, a matchbox 18 wheeler and a set of Mack Tools red coveralls that I wore until I literally could not squeeze into the any more.
And then he was gone again.
Yesterday was Fathers Day and I watched with slight envy as friends posted time faded photos of their fathers and thanked them for the instruction and inspiration they provided. My father was conspicuously absent from my life even after the photo above. Oh, there were occasional weird large stuffed animal gifts and, when I was older, drunk collect calls from bars and random law enforcement facilities, but nothing that would be mistaken for actual parenting.
If I sound bitter, you should know; I am not. As my father lay dying in a hospice bed, my aunt’s husband gave me a little bit of insight.
“He was the best father he could be.”
And that was true. He was messed up by a whole line of people even before he hit Vietnam where he was given the gift of post traumatic stress disorder. This woke him up in the middle of the night not knowing where he was or what ghost of the VC might be attacking him in his own bed.
I doubt I would have hung around either if I thought I was going to randomly hurt the ones I loved one night.
In a way, he was an inspiration. Because of his absence I have made sure that my son knows who I am. I have not missed a soccer game or a single awards presentation. I am madly in love with him and I hold him close everyday so he knows it. I swore I would not make the mistakes my own father did.