This past Tuesday I enjoyed the beginning of Father's Day week with my dad, the Dads Inc founder, Chris Maples, and his wife Colleen. We met at the Rathskellar for dinner and a beer and then went to the Willie Nelson concert at the Murat. It was a great way to start the week.
I'm a huge Willie fan for one main reason. Growing up, my family went camping a lot and often ended up somewhere in Kentucky. Every time we crossed the Kentucky state line my dad would say "Alright, we're in Kentucky, gotta listen to country music!"
Back in the early 80's it seemed like every third country song was Willie Nelson. On the Road Again, Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, Good Hearted Woman, Angel Flying too Close to the Ground, Whiskey River, and many more. Classic country songs from a very unique voice and songwriter. Willie is 79 now and can still play and sing pretty well.
My dad turns 60 this year and just put in for retirement from the police department where he's been for nearly 40 years. It wasn't an easy decision for him. As a homicide detective, he says that he "has front row tickets to the greatest freak show on earth." I can vouch for that from all the random, gruesome pictures he's shown me. As a person who likes to shock others, he'll say something like "hey, want to see what happens to a guy who jumps off a bridge and lands in front of a Mack truck?" Yeah, sorry for that image. It's probably not far off from what you're imagining now, though.
Friday night found me at the Grill on Indy's northeast side. My dad's classic rock and oldies band, KLAS, was playing and he asked if I could help them setup. All the guys are mid-50's to 60 something and that night, they all had some sort of ailment. One had to take a muscle relaxer before playing, one just had a major surgery in March, and the others, well, let's just say arthritis is a bitch. Yet, they still love to play music together and put up with the little aches and pains for the pure joy it brings to them.
I play a little guitar myself and I credit my dad for leading me to that talent. I had access to all his music equipment from guitars to harmonicas to amps and mics. It was fun growing up with all that.
My dad came to all my games - football, baseball, soccer, and basketball - despite me not being an all-star athlete. He also came to all my after school programs from bad band performances to talent shows to science fairs. He was there and supportive. When I wanted to start my first business in the 9th grade building custom furniture he loaned me the $500 for the tools and supplies I needed to get started. I paid him back that same summer.
He led by example, one that I still follow today with my own children. I go to all the games, after school programs, and even the day camp cookouts where I seem to get the same amount of food as the kids.
Sometimes he brought out the iron fist and sometimes the soft heart. He managed both sides equally well. I did some bad things when I was younger, mostly out of curiosity and not anger or destructiveness. I spray painted the house, put a knife into my parent's water bed, played with matches, and pounded an entire box (1000's) of 10 penny nails into the front yard. And when I was nine I was about to get my last confrontation with dad's belt (remember, it was the early 80's before spanking your kids became a criminal offense). I remember laying across his knees, scared to death. As his hand came up for the first whack I bolted. I sprinted out the door and into the hallway and by the time I reached the end all I could think was, "Oh, God. What did I just do!" Then I heard, "Get your butt back in here!" Fearing the worst, I crawled back slowly, with tears in my eyes and an inability to speak except to say, "I'm s-s-s-s-sorry!"
Dad looked at me with what seemed like rage in his eyes and then he smiled and started laughing. "I guess you get the point," he said and then gave me a hug and let me go. That was actually a turning point in my childhood. I never really did anything as bad as cutting waterbeds or spray painting houses after that.
There are certainly a lot of dads in the world that want nothing to do with their kids. I can only assume they are selfish, self-centered individuals that don't give much thought or time to other people. But there are an amazing number of dads, like my own, that live the trials and tribulations of fatherhood every day and embrace it with hearts of gold. These are the dads that cry when their children are born (me), get peed and pooped on and still manage a smile, build tents out of blankets, give their sons slingshots, and have tea parties with their daughters and two of her make believe friends.
But it's also about being a father and not a friend. A father loves his kids but sets and maintains boundaries. A father will scold their children for doing something bad (yet cute) and then laugh to the point of crying while retelling the incident to his wife. A father will always put the long term growth and development of their kids above the immediate need to "keep them happy." Sure, we all want happy kids but we want our kids to grow into mature adults too.
So, to all you dads out there who love their children but give them boundaries; who strive for happiness but draw the line when necessary; thank you. Thank you for your best efforts raising mature and capable individuals.
And to my own dad, for your continued support, direction, and love - thank you!