Photo courtesy of Anne Geissinger
When each of my two kids were born, moments after they were placed in my arms, I said to them, “Congratulations, child, you won the Daddy Lottery!” Mary Tyler Dad doesn’t especially like this, but truer words have never been spoken.
On Father’s Day I think about what it means to be a good dad and how lucky me and my kids are. Gratefully, it’s not nearly as loaded for me as Mother’s Day, nor is it for Mary Tyler Dad. He doesn’t get tripped up about holidays or significant dates like I do. He’s calm like that. But it’s still hard to celebrate Father’s Day when one of your children is not with you.
I knew shortly after I met him that he was different. We had been out on a few dates, but it wasn’t until our third or fourth date when he talked about a hard time someone close to him had gone through that I stood at attention. Ding, ding, ding! The compassion, generosity, and concern he expressed made me take a second look. He was always handsome, but his eyes became softer after that talk, his hands sturdier, his shoulders broader — this one, I knew, was a keeper.
I was the first to know and understand that we would be husband and wife. It took Mary Tyler Dad a few years to catch up to me. I snared him with my wily ways after five years of dating. He, though, was the first to know and understand that we would be parents together. I kept putting it off and putting it off and putting it off. We were in our mid-thirties, both invested in our careers, and had a great life together. He never pressured me, just gently and persistently brought it into our conversation. Repeatedly. Kind of like he’s doing right now with me procrastinating making a dentist appointment.
As I type these words, I am looking out the window, watching him walk up the street with Mary Tyler Son, returning from a morning trip to the park. Mary Tyler Dad puts in the time. When he’s tired, he puts in the time. He understands more than most how fleeting it is. When he’s busy, he puts in the time. When he’s got bills to pay and chores to do and projects to manage he puts in the time. I love that about him.
Photo courtesy of Joel Wanek
From day one, bringing Donna home from the hospital for the first time, he proved himself to be the prince among men I knew him to be. While I nursed both kids through their first year, Mary Tyler Dad would sleepily wake to change their diapers before handing them off to me in the dark for the one thing he could not provide our kids — mother’s milk.
He does laundry and dishes and sews Halloween costumes. Sews Halloween costumes, people. He watches too much basketball in June, but that is forgiven as he is not a fan of baseball, hockey, or football. He sings sweet songs to Mary Tyler Son, remembering all the correct lyrics, rather than the made up ones I cobble together. He doesn’t flinch when I teach the little one the words to bad pop songs and we have kitchen dance parties to LMFAO. He brings our boy to the sitter on the days I work so I can get in early or do my hair.
Last week Mary Tyler Dad had a business trip to St. Louis for a few nights. He came home and said that sitting all alone in the hotel suite made him sad about how empty his life would be without us. That broke my heart and filled it to brimming all at the same time.
He is the best father I can imagine for my children. It is criminal that his daughter was taken from him. Criminal. Our world needs clones of Mary Tyler Dad — millions of him putting in the time, sharing their wit and love and generosity and parenting and partnering. What a world that would be.
Photo courtesy of MTM
Happy Father’s Day, Mary Tyler Dad! I love you more than Coca Cola, cheeseburgers, and chocolate — combined. xox.