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Sunday, June 15, 2003

The old block

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there. This is my third year as a parent, and I've got to say it's the greatest. How's that for a lame understatement? Hey, sometimes words fail.

When I compare my life now to my life as a single guy, or married without children, it's night and day. Sure, there were many, many wonderful times in the old days, but they've got nothing on what's happening around here now. I am so thankful to, and for, my wife and daughter.

This is the first Father's Day without my own dad, who passed away last July. Although we spent most of our lives separated, he was there for me in a good way through my grammar school years. A lot of him rubbed off on me and my siblings -- some of our best attributes included.

Toward the end of his life, finding a gift for him to mark an occasion was always tough. When we found something he liked -- Harry & David's pears, wool "truck driver's" caps, polo shirts -- we tended to repeat ourselves. He was the quintessential creature of habit, though, and so this was perfectly fine. I think the last great gift we found for him was pillows. He didn't think anyone knew he needed new ones. We got them before he ran out and bought them for himself. He'd do that -- go out and buy himself an appliance in late November, rather than hint around for it as a Christmas present. Whaddya gonna do? We'd buy him another sweater.

The last time I saw him was at the nursing home where his life ended. He hated it, but he knew his body had failed him to the point that he had to be there. He put on a game face and did his best to tough it out. On his good days, he was still the same funny, smart, world-wise guy he always had been, which had a way of endearing him to everybody. When he could see through the haze in his brain, he was still cheering people up and offering to help whomever he could.

As John Hiatt, who will be in town this week, explains it in a great song about some of this:

Well the sun comes up and you stare your cup of coffee, yup
Right through the kitchen floor
You feel like hell so you might as well get out and sell
Your smart ass door to door

And the Mrs. wears her robe slightly undone
As your daughter dumps her oatmeal on your son
And you keep it hid
Just like your dad did

So you go to work just to watch some jerk
Pick up the perks
You were in line to get
And the guy that hired you just got fired
Your job's expired
They just ain't told you yet

So you go and buy a brand new set of wheels
To show your family just how great you feel
Acting like a kid
Just like your dad did

You're a chip off the old block
Why does it come as such a shock
That every road up which you walk
Your dad already did?
Yeah, you've seen the old man's ghost
Come back as cream chipped beef on toast
Now if you don't get your slice of the roast
You're gonna flip your lid
Just like your dad did, just like your dad did

Well the day was long, now supper's on
The thrill is gone, but something's taking place
Yeah the food is cold and your wife feels old
But all hands fold as the two-year-old says grace

She says "Help the starving children to get well
But let my brother's hamster burn in hell"
You love your wife and kids
Just like your dad did

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