A Father's Place
By Anthony Buccino
Enjoy the proud days, come what may, of “That's my dad!” Before you know it, you'll hear, “Who? Him? I don't know him.”
I wasn't more than five years old the night my father grabbed me with his vise-like hands on his jackhammer arms and swung me over the banister of our second story back porch.
Swinging me side to side 20 feet in the air above the concrete sidewalk, Dad and I were having fun. I was safe, safe from the world in his strong hands. Mother's screams of terror stilled my shrieks of joy.
That night, Dad and I bonded, though neither of us knew the lexicon. The image of that night dangles daily in the bittersweet memories my father left me.
After nearly 30 years, I can still feel the strength with which he safely held me over the precipice. Little did I know then there was more to a father's place.
Now, I have my own daughter, and though I don't tempt fate from a second floor porch, I realize how much there is to this father business.
I am the image my little girl trusts. Everything I do and everything she sees me do contributes to that image. I am her trusted friend who knows all and can do all. Those are pretty big shoes to fill.
Dads are their children's protectors. Dads chase the monsters out of the closet at night. Dads have a special hug that resolves a nightmare's terror. Dads are as tall as the sky and can reach the cookies mom hides on the top shelf.
Dads have to be dads sometimes. That means they have to yell. Yet after every reprimand comes the guilt of being a daddy.
Dads want to be kids, but too often get trapped into being adults. Dads are as old as forever. They listen to 'old people' music like Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. Their car radios are set to all-talk stations, for goodness' sakes.
Yet, with their own children, dads are forever young. They play horse, hide and seek, and checkers too. On a hot summer day, dads will chase you around with a water pistol, and sometimes let you sneak up on them with the garden hose. He pretends he didn't know.
Dads have the largest, strongest hands in the world. Little girls in their cradles tightly grab Dad's index finger and it is as big as the world outside.
But for dads they see that those small hands hold so much. They hold the future and all of Dad's hopes. They instill the fear of God in Dad when he senses the responsibility in that precious grip.
It is obvious that Dads have all the money. He pays for groceries, gas and ice cream sundaes. Dad is the big spender coughing up a nickel for the gumball bandits.
Little girls grow up, as mine has. This year she nailed us on the Easter bunny question. I am guessing she will humor us through one more season.
She doesn't always humor me.
Enjoy the proud days, come what may, of "That's my dad!" Before you know it, you'll hear "Who? Him? I don't know him. Yeah, well, if you don't tell anyone, we, sort of, know each other. Okay. Okay, he's my uh, Dad. But don't tell anyone."
Together at breakfast my daughter and I are like an old married couple. We eat quietly. Pass the milk. Read the cereal box. Make goofy faces in the reflection of the toaster.
In reflection, I see us differently.
I can offer no protection against the real world, only a way to ease into it. I am little more than a resource to rely on. In order to regroup and gather reserves before striking out again.
Babies are heaven's treasures. They become Dad's treasure. We mold them into our own image, graven or golden, and live with the results.
The father inside gets me out of jams. He wakes me from my nightmares. He answers my prayers with yeses and nos. He listens to me when I talk to him. He talks to me when I talk to him. He talks to me when I would hear no one. He watches everything I do, his presence always with me. He hears me when I pray in vain and in earnest. He is the child who is the father of this man. He is holding me while my legs dangle above the bottomless pit of life.
First published June 1990, The Belleville Times, Belleville, N.J.
© 1990 Anthony Buccino
Adapted from: A Father's Place, An Eclectic Collection By Anthony Buccino
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New Jersey author Anthony Buccino's stories of the 1960s, transit coverage and other writings earned four Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism awards.
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