Well, you’re not kids anymore. You’re grown up… you’re MEN, which depending on the culture, can happen basically anytime past your second birthday—but in this case, I’m thinking late teens.
School sucks. Your braces hurt. Your best friend moved to Omaha and your Playstation X broke. You take it out on your dad, because he talks too much about “being positive” and “do what you can with what you have” and he’s probably still trying to convince you both to roll for your next D&D character…
At that moment, on that day, at some point, I want you to remember:
All the pizza. Lots and lots of pizza.
Remember that I let you and your brother destroy all of my once-mint-condition original Star Wars action figures. Remember how I glued together all the broken things: the legos, the figurines, the spaceships, your favorite ____ that you couldn’t do without.
Remember the multitude of foxies and turtles that mommy and daddy went to the ends of the Earth to find for you just in case they got destroyed in the laundry or left in California.
Remember the nights I held you all night when you were sick. Remember that I cleaned up your vomit and wiped away your tears and said comforting things and that after all of that daddy and mommy spent the next two days puking alone in the bathroom while you asked if you could have brownies for dessert.
Remember all the holidays and the toys and the piñata that daddy fucked up on your seventh birthday.
On that day when you want to stab your father in the eye with your dinner fork because I asked you about your grades for the tenth time, just remember that I bathed you and cleaned your butt and changed thousands of diapers. And I never—not once—gagged.
When you slam too hard on the brakes while we circle the parking lot in preparation for your driver’s permit and your father shouts “Oy!” and grabs his chest, don’t forget that time I pulled off your umbilical cord prematurely because I couldn’t stand the smell and wanted to spare you as well.
And when the time comes for you to roll your eyes in shame while I pick you up from the school dance, shouting “Hey, kiddoo, how’d it go?” just think back to the lazy Sundays spent building Legos and making forts and painting trucks and how I scooped out the yoke from your hard-boiled eggs with my bare hands because you didn’t like the color.
Remember how I let you punch me in the balls and knock me in the head and perform dive bombs from the couch onto my chest, and how I never cried or called a “time out” or took five to catch my breath, but just stuck with the pain until it became a bitter, black soulful ache in the tips of my bones…
Remember those weeknights with dad while mommy was traveling for work when we stayed up late watching movies or took out all the junk food from the cabinets and laid it on the table and tried to make the most disgusting, amazing cartoon meal. Remember the stomach aches.
Remember Six Flags and Disney and The Avengers and popcorn and Scooby Doo and Michigan, Wisconsin, California, Florida, and New Jersey (wait, no, forget about New Jersey).
Remember that while daddy may have gotten angry he always eventually caved and read you fifteen books before bedtime, even if he let you cry for an hour and then had to make it up to you with snacks and extra hugs and more snacks and more books and why the fuck didn’t I just agree to more books the first time then I wouldn’t be in this mess but the important thing to keep in mind is that daddy tried. There’s no award in that. There’s no pat on the back for trying. Yoda may have popularized this belief, but I’m sure it’s as old as prehistoric man who wanted to be congratulated by his wife for “trying super hard” to get dinner. I know this. I know of my failures and I admit them freely. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t deserve this moment. This split second of your attention. Stay with me.
While putting on that heavy coat and heading out into the Chicago winter to shovel the driveway as you mutter to yourself about why dad couldn’t just do it—remember the hot cocoa. Remember the bonfires in the backyard. Remember the epic inflatable pool that dad yelled at you every five minutes for accidentally deflating with your foot. Remember puzzle nights and bedtime stories, kettle corn and hay rides.
In ten years when the sound of my voice makes you want to put your head inside the microwave oven, just pause. Do me this favor: Pause before putting your head inside the microwave and pressing auto cook. Pause. Just for a second. Think about me. Me, goddamit.