This past week, Mark made a very impromptu, overnight trip up to the Texas Panhandle. Our daughter Celeste and her husband Tim live in Amarillo. Tim is a history professor at West Texas A & M, and Celeste is preparing to begin her career as a licensed massage therapist. They don’t love living in the Panhandle, but they’ve settled in and their employment opportunities are pretty solid. After two years of apartment dwelling, they decided it was time to look for a house.
And they found one, which is what prompted Mark’s whirlwind trip. He’s got a long history in various aspects of the construction industry, and he’s a pretty good judge of structures, and how well or how poorly they’re put together. He made the journey because he didn’t want them buying a home that wasn’t solid. So he went to see the house for himself. To make sure it would pass muster.
Last year when our son Jarrod’s ancient Volvo bit the dust, and he made the decision to purchase his first brand new car, he and Mark went all over the D/FW area to find one. It had to fit in Jarrod’s budget and Mark wanted to be sure he got the best deal possible.
That’s just the kind of dad he is.
My memories of my father are, no doubt, very different than my children’s memories of theirs. Their dad was “The Cosby Show”, while mine was more “Mad Men.” My dad went to work every morning, and came home every evening. On the weekends, he played golf all day. He was not a hands-on kind of dad, at least not with me. My brothers probably had a different experience. But in my mind, Daddy was a lot like Don Draper. Kind (Don is kind to his kids, at least) and funny (definitely NOT Don Draper), but emotionally distant. It was the 60’s, after all.
The summer I turned 16, my dad moved out and my parents divorced. I remember being angry at him, mostly because he’d been having an affair, and this hurt my mom. I felt no guilt over the divorce, as some kids do. I knew I’d had nothing to do with his leaving. I didn’t really miss him after he left. There was more a sense of relief that he, and his bad behavior, were out of the house. At least my mom could move on. In retrospect, maybe his physical absence didn’t bother me because he’d been emotionally absent all along.
When he died, shortly after my 19th birthday, I cried for a few days, but there was no feeling of deep sorrow, or loss, or abandonment. This puzzled me. Why wasn’t I sadder? What was wrong with me? My father was gone. I kept waiting for the grief to hit me, to blindside me, to overwhelm me. But it never happened.
Mark had a much closer relationship with his father while growing up, so maybe that had some influence on the father he became when our kids were born. It was the mid-80s when we started our family, so being a father was fast becoming a more interactive experience. It was okay for dads to assist with the birthing process, rather than pacing the floor and waiting for a nurse to come out and announce the birth. Mark embraced it, much to my relief. He was there for every minute.
A few days after Celeste was born, I was still in the hospital following a caesarean section and some minor complications. I watched as he picked up our fussy daughter and lovingly coaxed her to sleep. It was evident to me that he was completely infatuated with her.
“Gosh, babe. I don’t think you’ve ever looked at me with that kind of devotion,” I said. He never took his eyes off of her, and replied “That’s because she’s the first girl I’ve ever known who will always be my girl.”
Mark changed diapers like a champ (hear that, Kanye?) He didn’t mind getting up for the 2:00 a.m. feeding. He had no problem sharing the demands of parenthood. We traded off cooking chores with bathtime duties, and we took turns reading “Goodnight, Moon” or “Old Bear” or any one of a dozen books at bedtime.
We were fortunate back then, in that my job provided us with enough income that I kept working and he took on the role of Mr. Mom. For nearly five years, he stayed home with the kids and I went to the office. It was not common at the time, and he took a lot of crap from friends and family who thought it wasn’t “manly”. But it never bothered him. I think most of those guys were jealous, and maybe even a little intimidated.
While other men were out making sales or practicing law, Mark was learning how to braid hair (he could do African, French, and herringbone braids, btw!) While other dads were traveling on business, Mark was taking Celeste to swimming lessons or playing computer games with Jarrod. We did it a little different than most couples. But I think we all came out richer for the experience.
He’s never been an overindulgent dad. He didn’t think it was necessary to spoil our kids, and he probably thought I did too much of that. Still, he’s always made sure that there was a roof over our heads, food in the pantry, and that everyone was taken care of.
Back in the day, he coached peewee football. He participated in the daddy-daughter number in the annual dance recitals. He attended every play, orchestra concert, spelling bee, dance and cheerleading competition, and awards program during their school years. He helped with homework, science fair experiments and art projects. He’s always been involved with their lives.
Just the way a father ought to be.
Don’t think I don’t know how lucky my kids were. They had, and have, a relationship with their dad that I never knew with my own. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
Besides a love of music and a long-running partnership in an award-winning rock band, all five Foo Fighters have another thing in common – they’re all dads. Everything I’ve seen and read in the media tells me they’re all devoted to their families, a fact which only makes them more endearing.
Pat Smear has a daughter, and Nate Mendel has a son. Taylor Hawkins has one of each, and Chris Shiflett has three boys. Dave Grohl and his wife are parents to two daughters, with a third little girl on the way later this year. To all these guys, being a dad is obviously important. Probably more important than being wildly popular and talented musicians. I’d like to think that’s the case anyway.
So, Happy Father’s Day to the love of my life, for always being there for our kids. It doesn’t matter if it wasn’t always perfect. You showed up, and continue to do so. That’s what matters. A lot.
And to all you fabulous Foo Fighters, keep loving those kids of yours. In the end, that will mean more to them than the fame and fortune.