It’s Father’s Day. I had 30 Father’s Days with my dad, and have had 16 without him. It is still an adjustment, somewhat, to go into the Hallmark store and not buy him a card, not think about what to get him. It is just an odd thing to have a parent, and then not have one. I guess you don’t stop having a dad; he is just no longer around. I don’t say that with a feeling of deep sorrow – it’s been 16 years after all – but still, death is the ultimate in finality, huh? He sure has missed a lot since he died, including two of his three grandchildren.

Father’s Day reminds me of that, and what he was to me, and what he was not. I think it is fair to say that my dad probably would have been just as happy not being a parent, or happier, really. It’s not a cut; it just really wasn’t his thing but back then it is just what everyone did. He and I had an awful lot in common, good and bad, but I frustrated him in his role as a father, probably just for that reason. The things you see in your children that remind you of yourself can be the most heartwarming, or the most devastating. So in the end it was tough for me as well – we could get along like pals, chatting about music or cars or Monty Python, or bitterly fight. The inconsistency of the relationship was too much for me to deal with, and it was a healthier thing for me to get some distance from him as a young adult.

It was easier for me to spew out what I hated about him than to tell him what I loved about him. Maybe I thought he wouldn’t hear me, wouldn’t care, or I just didn’t know how to say it, other than try to get him things that would really please him on Father’s Day and Christmas and his birthday. I don’t know that I ever really got to properly thank him for a few things, things that may have seemed simple or unmemorable to him, but made a huge difference to me. So, better completely and utterly late than never:

-- Thank you for recognizing and supporting my love of music from very early on. You were the one who bought me my first AM transistor radio, my Close-N-Play, my Sears Silvertone portable stereo, the Penney’s AM/FM transistor radio, the reel-to-reel tape recorder, the portable cassette recorder, the Realistic stereo with separate speakers, the any-stereo-components-of-my choice when I graduated high school, the 4-track TASCAM cassette recorder. You bought me the kiddie drumset for Christmas when I was 7, the Premier drum set when I was 13, the Yamaha acoustic guitar when I was 14, the Gibson Les Paul Custom when I was 16, and the Ovation deep-bowl acoustic/electric for my 18th birthday. You brought home pop records from your trips to England, old 45s left by cadets at the military school you worked at, went to the hip record store at age 50 and said, “Give me whatever is hot right now on the charts for my 7-year-old daughter,” and came back with "Through The Past, Darkly" by the Rolling Stones and "Near The Beginning" by Vanilla Fudge. You gave me a polka LP and said, “Drum along to this and you will learn how to keep solid time,” and you were right. If I wanted to play you a song I was excited about, even though it wasn’t your thing, you always came down to listen. You came to every one of my choir and band concerts. You never told me to turn it down. Well, OK, maybe a couple of times, but that's about it.

-- Thank you for introducing me to all kinds of strange and wonderful foods. You would bring home wild stuff from Europe: British curry horseradish sauce or lavender chocolate from Belgium or chorizo from a Mexican grocery you decided to stop at in Milwaukee. Pickled carrots, cannibal sandwiches, beer with lemonade, Stilton cheese…anything and everything was worth a shot. My palate now enjoys so many more kinds of food because of your adventurous lead.

-- Thank you for your bizarre sense of humor. Dry, sarcastic, but sometimes absurd and slapstick, comedy was gold in our house. If you got Dad to laugh, there was nothing better than that. Because of his time spent in the UK, he would have us watch Python and Are Your Being Served and Benny Hill and Fawlty Towers, and we would all roar with laughter in the living room. How could I forget the time you went grocery shopping with me and mom and she and I went down another aisle and returned to find you pushing the cart, on your knees, and going DURRR BLRGG DEHHH? HAHA!

-- Thank you for understanding my need to go and do and see, to leave Wisconsin and figure out things for myself. You trusted me that I wasn’t going to screw up in any terrible way, even at 18 years old, and I was so amazed by that. I think I lived up to that, anyway. You loved to travel, as do I, and that remains one of the most enjoyable things for me. GO and DO and SEE.

If you have a dad around, maybe tell him a few things he did that mattered for you. I am sure he would like to know it. Maybe he was a screw-up, but if he did something right, anything, be generous enough to say it. It is a gift far past any card or tie or golf club that you could buy.