A Letter to My Father: For all the "Weekend Dads"
You are, notoriously, the worst person to buy gifts for.
You're nothing like my Mom: you don't have a specific taste, and you hardly buy anything for yourself aside from expensive motorized vehicles I could only dream of affording. I've tried taking you to dinner at your favorite Spanish restaurant or buying you slippers, but you always end up paying for dinner, and the slippers are almost always the wrong size, and despite having the gift receipt crumbled up in the change pile on top of your dresser, you never exchange them for the right size.
Every year, I've watched you carefully open your gifts and waited for your usual heartfelt "thank you" and hug as if it's the best gift you've ever received—even when it was just a keychain and drink koozie from my elementary school book fair. You accept graciously, despite constantly reminding me that there's nothing you want (or need).
I cherish the memory of the closest I'd ever come to crushing it: when I surprised you with that acrylic framed photo of you and your grand-cat. The same image you keep on your cell phone's lock screen. But I feel the need to step it up this year with something extra sentimental.
So, here it is: a letter. Not to complain about how difficult it is to find you the perfect gift but to explain exactly why you deserve the perfect gift.
Though I'm feeling grateful for the maturity that comes with this whole aging thing, I'm realizing that as a thirty-year-old adult, I've never properly thanked you for all you've done for our little family over the years.
You were a young, blue-collar, single father whom my brother and I only saw on the weekends since we were about five years old until we were old enough to drive ourselves—and at that point, opted to spend the weekends hanging out with friends. Living entirely on my own for the last nine months during this pandemic, I realized firsthand just how difficult it is to balance all life throws at you amid the resounding loneliness of being single, especially when there's a never-ending mountain of dishes glaring down at you after a long day of work.
Last year, you told me that you usually spent your last twenty dollars at the end of every week on pizza and a movie rental for us. Your full-time job left you with just enough time to take care of a house and yourself by yourself just so you could entertain us on weekends. You became used to making sacrifices to make the best of the time we had together.
You probably never wanted or planned to be a "weekend dad," but you did the best you could and always made the most of it. I remember that you'd take your vacation the same time every summer so we could ferry all the way out to Block Island beaches and get buried by our cousins in the New England sand. You'd coast down the big hill in town in Ol' Betsy (the '96 red pickup you still own) and the three of us would take bets on how long we could coast before having to hit the brakes. I think I had my eyes closed the entire way.
Growing up, I was afraid of everything, so I rejected the new things you tried to teach me—from riding quads to skating half-pipes to shredding waves at the shore and taking piano lessons at the music shop. You were always ready and willing to invest in our growth—pushing us to learn new skills—which I'm finding now is much more difficult to commit to as responsibilities increase with age.
I can look back on all of those years of watching my older brother race or play in his band with you, and I sometimes think you were accidentally raising me to be like him. While I was too timid to engage in the same hobbies as him, I was still able to learn about myself—about bravery, and how to try new things. It wasn't until later in life that I found that inner-confidence you always knew was there. You helped to teach me when to push myself even when I felt like giving up and how to fight for what I wanted.
I am proud of all of those experiences growing up because you provided everything I needed to be able to grow into myself, and though it may have taken a few years, I'm finally confident enough to try new things that I never thought I'd be able to do—like surfing in Hawaii, skateboarding down the river path by the Hudson, or competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
You're still my number one fan. I feel your support when you show up to my competitions and take photos, or when you buy me new gear for my birthday (complete with attached YouTube tutorials). When I waded into the ocean with a surfboard for the first time on my own, I heard your voice in my ear, telling me to breathe and have fun with it.
So, thank you for granting me the independence to figure life out on my own while still being there for me whenever I needed you. Thank you for all the flat tires you've changed and for the movie nights that inspired me to pursue filmmaking. Thank you for never letting your burdens become my burdens.
You deserve the best, and you deserve to be recognized for all that you've done and continue to do for both of your children.
Thank you for everything, Dad.
Happy Father's Day.