Well it’s Father’s Day and I really had to think about what I wanted to post. After all, I’m a dad blogger. Father’s Day is a high holiday around these parts. So it had to be something good (for a change).
Well it didn’t take much thinking to realize what I wanted to write about. I thought about my 14 months as a dad. I thought about the piercing intensity with which I love my son. I thought about taking my role as a parent seriously. And I thought about how I’ll do anything it takes to make sure Will is raised right. And as all of these thoughts collected in my tiny brain, it came to me. And I immediately knew what to do.
All of those good qualities — everything good about me as a person and a dad — comes from my own father.
I love my dad very, very much and we have a great relationship. Unlike my brother and my mother — who share a freakishly strange and intense love and understanding of each other — my dad and I are facsimiles of one another. We both write, we both argue, we are both smart-asses, and neither of us holds anything back when it comes to how we feel.
It would be fruitless to recount on these pages the things he’s taught me or how he’s helped me over the years, because the list is too long (and you’d be bored to tears). So instead, as a Father’s Day present, my gift this year is to let him know how proud I am of him.
You see, my parents have been together since they were juniors in high school. They were married at 20 and 21, parents by 22 and 23. And my dad’s relationship with his own father was…well, strained at best over the years. While a good man by most accounts, my grandfather started his own family after divorcing my grandmother. For whatever reasons, he wasn’t there for my dad on a daily basis. And while he put his other daughter through four years at a ridiculously expense college, my dad wasn’t able to attend school due to financial constraints, despite being more than intelligent enough.
As a plethora of studies indicate, males without strong paternal influences tend to continue the negative cycle of behavior when it comes to parenting. But even before I was born, my father swore he’d never let that happen. And he didn’t.
We weren’t rich growing up, but my brother and I never went without. We played sports, went to camp, lived in a house, then moved into a newer house, and always had everything we needed. And that was in large part due to my dad, who worked insane hours building a business from the ground up when I was very young. He continued to work long hours, but he managed to make a lot of my Little League games and even the recitals (which were boring to me and I was in them).
As I got older, he settled into fatherhood even more. While my mom did a FANTASTIC job caring for us when we were little, my dad really hit his stride as a parent when I became a teenager. While I rebelled against my mom, I was surprised that my dad seemed to just get me and what i was going through. Although I’d never friggin tell him that. He’d give me these fatherly speeches and I’d roll my eyes and tell him he had no idea what I was going through. But on the inside I was thinking “Holy crap, that’s great advice. I’m going to use that!”
And boy did I put him through the ringer with my first girlfriend in high school. He didn’t freak out when I accidentally left a condom receipt on the kitchen table. He didn’t freak out when my girlfriend and I left a family barbecue for a “walk in the woods.” When I came back an hour later, my back was COVERED in mosquito bites while she miraculously had none on her. And he even managed to keep his cool when said girlfriend called him personally from the hospital to talk to him about her yeast infection and how she’s allergic to latex. Sorry dad.
And my dad has always been the funny dad who my friends never minded having around. Even to this day we’ll still call him up from time to time to come out with us. And as the highest honor, we invited him to be in our fantasy football league even though he’s the worst fantasy drafter on the entire planet.
When it was time to graduate high school, I remember he asked me for a favor. He gave me his class ring and asked me to keep it in my pocket during the ceremony. He was insanely proud of the fact that I represented the third generation of Gouveia men to graduate from Norton High School. I laughed and told him he was corny, but inside I was touched.
And I vividly recall the day I was accepted to college. I know that not getting to attend college remains one of the greatest regrets of his life. So his goal, his mission at all costs, was to see that both of his kids attended and graduated from a 4-year institution of higher learning. When I was accepted to college and made my decision to attend a small state school in the Berkshires, the first thing he did was put the college window sticker on his car. And four years later when I walked across the graduation stage, the diploma in my hand was as much for him as for me.
Honestly, most of the things I’ve done have been an attempt to emulate and impress my dad. Partly because he acts like he’s so hard to impress. If I brought home an A- he asked why it wasn’t an A. If I went 2 for 4 in a baseball game he’d ask what happened the other two times. But he did it in a half-joking way that just made me want to work harder the next time. And he always told me he loved me and he was proud of me.
But despite all my achievements, I never really felt like I wowed him. Until April 3, 2008.
My dad was adamant about being at the hospital whenever Will was born. And keep in mind, we didn’t find out the sex of the baby and we didn’t tell anyone what our choices were for names. I texted him when MJ was going into labor and he was on his way immediately. My dad had been POSITIVE it was a boy. He never wavered. So when Will was born, he was my first call.
“Hey dad, how are you?”
“What do you mean how am I? Do I have a grandchild yet??”
“Hey, listen to this for a sec.”
(holding up the phone to Will as he screamed bloody murder)
“Oh my God. Oh my God. Is that my grandbaby?? (he was already tearing up, the big wuss)
“Yup, that’s your grandson.”
“It’s a boy? IT’S A BOY! (sound of car window rolling down) I HAVE A GRANDSON! I HAVE A GRANDSON!!! (keep in mind he was in the car by himself)
But even though he wanted to know the baby’s name, i told him the doctor was there and I had to go. Thirty minutes later he entered the room and laid eyes on his grandson for the first time.
“Aaron he’s beautiful. What’s his name?”
“Thanks dad. His name is Will. Short for William. Named after his grandfather.”
To this day it remains one of the only times I’ve ever managed to render my father speechless. The look on his face is one of the happiest memories I have, burned into my brain forever. Because I would never name my child after someone who wasn’t worthy. But my dad, plenty worthy.
So thank you dad. Thank you for always being there and being the first person I call with good news. Thanks for being the kind of dad that not all kids have, even though you didn’t have the blueprint from your own dad. Thanks for giving me advice even when I told you you were stupid, because you knew I was listening and that I needed it. Thanks for lending me a hand (and more often than not, your wallet). Thanks for showing me how to love people with unbridled emotion. Thanks for giving me a hug and a kiss every time we say hello and goodbye, even during those teen years when I thought that was humiliating. And thanks for being the kind of dad a son can name his kid after.
You’re a great dad and a tremendous grandfather. I love you so much and I’m forever grateful for how you raised me (and the fact that you’re taking this blog post in lieu of an actual gift).