This time of year many people like to reflect on the past. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad. Partly because I was recently at a memorial service, and a childhood friend of my dad pointed to me and asked my mom which son I was — telling her I looked like Gus when he was young. But my thoughts on him are recently amplified because his birthday is in December.
When I get like this, I start wondering if I’m a good father. Beyond the physical similarities, the older I get, the more I become my dad. I inherited his high triglycerides and lack of patience. Like him, I strive always to put my kids first. I care for my mother, and I’m loyal to my friends. Also, like him, I can have a short fuse, be stubborn beyond rationality, and even be an arrogant Greek chauvinist.
Ever since I was a kid, I hated it when someone would tell me, “You’re just like your dad.” I heard it constantly. Even my grandmother would say to me how much I reminded her of him. But I wasn’t just like my dad. I’m still not.
The big difference between us — he was straight as a man could be. But for me? Well, on the Kinsey Scale where a six is exclusively gay, I’m a 17. Whether I like it or not, the difference is important. It presents challenges for me as a father that my dad could never have imagined.
What I’ve slowly realized is that my dad’s parenting has prepared me to face these challenges — if not fearlessly, at least confidently. He taught me to have faith in myself, stand up for my beliefs and that nothing is more important than family.
So maybe my dad has been on my mind lately because it’s time for me to recognize I have the skills I need to play the role of dad pretty damn well, too. I need to quit looking over my shoulder to see if I’m living up to an idea of what a dad should be, and simply start being that dad.
It’s a new year. And new years are all about new beginnings. So, going forward I plan to focus on all the amazing dad skills my father gave me. I will continue to do everything I can for my kids — helping them and encouraging them. I will make them laugh, and be there when they need a shoulder on which to cry. I will be proud of them — always and unconditionally.
And yes, I’m going to work on those less charming aspects of my personality that remind people of my dad. I can be more patient, and I suppose I can admit that I’m not always right. I mean I guess it’s possible. I have to think about that one.
What I really should remember about my dad is that he never thought of me as his gay son. I was just always his son. My kids don’t think of me as their gay dad, just their dad.
I miss my dad constantly and think of him every day. I suppose that’s a testament to the kind of father he was and the relationship we shared. Now it’s my turn to focus on creating that same sort of relationship with my kids because the only way to live up to that ideal of fatherhood is to start looking ahead.