Perhaps a Father’s Day celebration occurred in my childhood home, but if it did, I don’t recall. I was seven when he died of cancer. Not sure how long he suffered with it; that could have precluded that special recognition.
Trophies stretched across our mantel, over the unused fireplace. Richard Q. Maberry, first or second place in this tournament or that, the placards said, underneath the figure with the paddle. I never saw him playing table tennis; those days ended before my birth. Nor did I see him on skis, jumping from the ramp at Theodore Wirth Park in the western suburbs of Minneapolis. He earned trophies for that too. Already 41 by the time of my arrival, he had hung up the skis and the paddle by then. Time for the more sedate sport—fishing.
Crosslake is one of the few memories of him I have. Memories wrapped in sights, sounds and smells. Trolling for the abundant pike dwelling in the lake’s cold, deep water. Sun sparkling brightly, bending this way and that atop low waves brought by warm breezes. A small outboard pushing the 14-foot aluminum boat along—first toward the dam and then back toward the dock, pulling multi-hooked and brightly painted wooden lures just below the surface. The odd, distinctive smell of the motor’s gasoline exhaust filtered through the lake water. Other times he cast a line from the shore, hoping to hook some crappies.
The lake house was his father’s, a place where his brothers and my cousins also appeared during the short but warm Minnesota summer. His anger flashed at a much older cousin on one occasion, when he carelessly cast from the shore beside us, hooking the seat of my pants on the backswing.
I’m like my father in some ways, or so people tell me. It’s not appearance, it’s mannerisms and jokes, I suppose. I’m as irreverent a smart ass as was he, they say. I wish he had been around longer, for me to get to know him better and vice versa. He would be well over 100 if he were alive today. But even another 15 years would have put me in my 20s. Still, he had an influence on me, as seen through the eyes of others.
My son will attain the same 41 years this fall that my father was when I was born. Irony? Our daughter is nearly three years younger. Like most American families, I suspect, mom got the gifts and arranged Father’s Day for some years. Later on, they advanced to getting or making their own.
To be certain of our choice for a dream home location, my wife and I spent the summer of 2008 in New Mexico. The kids, no longer children at 22 and 25, had other things with which to occupy themselves at home. They remembered Father’s Day; sending a card and calling. What a change from a few years before! But we will let that be; if you have or had teenagers, you’ll understand.
My son lives in the same town as us, so we get together on all the holidays–Mother’s and Father’s Days, birthdays, etc. We will again this June. Our daughter has been elsewhere, outside the US for several years and still is elsewhere. So it goes, as Billy Pilgrim says in Slaughterhouse Five—but my words are not quite so dark as the meaning in Vonnegut’s award winning work.
Have the happiest and most wonderful occasion this Father’s Day, if it applies to you.