This weekend, the kids and I will shower Chris with (small) gifts, fix him breakfast in bed, and take him golfing for Father’s Day. It will be wonderful and sweet and nice. And in the back of my mind, as always, will be my dad.
My dad didn’t like Chris for the first few years we dated in high school. Chris was a party boy. His house was the party house. In fact, all throughout high school, I wasn’t even allowed to go to Chris’s house. (Definitely broke that rule a lot… Sorry, Mom…)
In college, my dad tried to warm up to Chris, but it took a while. A long while. I think Dad thought Chris and I would fizzle out while dating long distance, but as graduation loomed on the horizon, my dad began to begrudgingly make an effort.
In our junior year of college, Chris drove seven hours from his university to our hometown, took my dad out to dinner, and asked for his permission to marry me. Chris told me years later that when he finally asked Dad at the restaurant, all Dad said was, “Oh.”
And not “Oh!” as in, “Oh, how sweet! That puppy is wagging his tail!”
It was more, “Oh,” as in “Oh, that bird just shit on me.”
Chris said the dinner was actually really good for both he and my dad. Chris was able to tell Dad how much he loved me and about the life he wanted the two of us to make, and my dad was able to tell Chris exactly what kind of life he wanted his oldest daughter to have.
“I just want her to be cared for and loved,” Dad said. “I don’t care about any of the rest. Just cared for and loved.”
Chris and I were married a year later and just months after that, we moved away from our families to Connecticut to begin our married life together. As Chris worked hard in graduate school and I worked hard to keep money in our bank account, my parents came to visit fairly often. And with each visit, my dad saw the life Chris was giving me: late nights studying, even later nights building sets at the theater, a walk-up rental in an old home in a sketchy part of town.
I worried what my dad thought when he came to visit. Was this enough? Was he proud? Had Chris and I lived up to his expectations?
One summer during graduate school, Chris went out to Utah to work for the full summer, leaving me alone in New Haven to work at my full-time job. My dad came up to stay two weeks with me that summer. As I worked during the day, he drove all over the New England coast, eating his way through lobster rolls and pistachio ice cream. And at night when I got home, he would have picked out a great place for us to go have dinner. It was a really special time for me and my dad. I’ll always remember that.
One night, we were eating dinner for the third or fourth time at one of our favorite seafood places, Lennie and Joe’s, and the conversation turned from crabs and lobster rolls to my first year of marriage.
“You’ve always had excellent judgment, Kate,” he told me. “But I think choosing Chris as your husband is the best decision you’ve ever made.”
From summer on, my dad and Chris were like peas and carrots. Dad called Chris often and the two of them made plans without me sometimes, usually on the golf course. They would have dinners together, beers together, fixed things together (and sometimes broke things together…). They became friends. And my heart soared.
A few years later, when we had Bean, I remember being in the hospital room and Chris walking around with him in his arms, and I heard my dad whisper to my mom, “He’s going to be a great father.”
A few years after that, Gracie Girl came along. When we found out it was a girl, Chris said to my dad that he didn’t know what to do with a girl. And my dad, being a veteran father of two high maintenance women, smiled and said, “Oh, Christopher, don’t you worry. They’ll tell you what to do!”
My dad thought Chris hung the world because of how much he loved his family. No one would have been good enough to marry his oldest daughter, except Chris. No one would have been good enough of a father to his first grandbabies, except Chris.
Over the years, I have loved watching Chris’s evolution of a dad. He took to parenting as naturally as… well… as my own dad did. I see so much of my dad in Chris as a parent. I see Chris taking an active interest in every little thing our kids do, just like my dad always did. I see Chris building individual and unique relationships with each of his children, just like my dad always did. I see him leading by example, encouraging on the hard days, and celebrating on the good ones, just like my dad always did. And there really is no higher praise I can give than that.
So this weekend, I will celebrate my wonderful husband, the father of my children and the love of my life. And I know that somewhere up above, my dad is celebrating him, too.