There are so many things that make it hard to open up to you: stale masculinity stereotypes, vulnerability, the looming threat of incarceration. But this Father’s Day, I’d like to put those fears aside and say I love you, Dad, and there’s no one I’d rather have as a father or as a co-conspirator in a brutal accidental manslaughter.
Like all families, we’ve been through good and bad together: I have treasured memories of our summer vacations to Lake Michigan and all our long road trips to and from college. You taught me how to dig a ditch and how to play Steven Stills on the guitar. But in spite of the sunny summers of guitar music and lemonade, your divorce from Mom lead to a really tough period in my childhood; my decision to go to college out of state hurt your feelings and our relationship; and running over that vagrant on the freeway was stressful for both of us.
Every family has undoubtedly lived through these same difficulties, but we both know there have been times when we’ve had it exceptionally tough: when your car was stolen a couple years ago, I honestly thought that the stress, fear, and financial strain might tear us apart. The theft made us both feel so powerless and vulnerable, especially since we couldn’t contact law enforcement, given that you still drive the car I hit that vagrant in. The bitter accusations we traded back and forth–that you really should have bleached the fender of the car in the immediate aftermath of the accident, that I should have kept my eyes on the road and never hit that vagrant in the first place–tore at us.
Our relationship really could have fallen apart back then, but thankfully, the forces keeping us together were strong enough to persevere: happy summer memories, our shared love of The Eagles, the fact that either one of us could seal both our fates and land us in jail with a single phone call. Though it didn’t always seem like we would make it, together we navigated our tensions, our disputes, our vulnerabilities, and our horrible secret. Together, we worked through my fear of abandonment stemming from you and Mom’s divorce, and your burdensome guilt stemming from the fact that if you hadn’t been yelling at me in the car that day, I probably wouldn’t have been distracted enough to run over that vagrant. Bound together by love, family, and mutually assured destruction, we worked through our difficulties and came out stronger.
And so, this Father’s Day, I want to say thank you. Thank you for reading me bedtime stories and building me a treehouse. Thank you for accepting my decision to go to Ohio State even when you didn’t like it. Thank you for coaching me on what to say to the cops. Thank you for buying me my first-ever interview suit and my first-ever new identity.
Thank you for being a great Dad.
Gwen Lawson has many awful secrets but just the one terrible one.
Image by hogsolo.