Father's Day last year found me driving to a grocery store to buy a phone card, which I then used--unsuccessfully, actually--to reach my dad, who was in Greece. I felt sad and down about it all day long. My grandmother had passed away only a few days before Father's Day, and it was hard to be disconnected from my family at that time. My father has always been that rock of safety for me, the fixer of all things, and surrounded by that empty feeling of loss over my grandmother's death, I just wanted to hear his voice, plain and simple. I think dads naturally become the fixers of all things, especially to their daughters. My dad has, all the years of my childhood, been the one to make things better. I think this is what dads do on a deeper level for their kids; even if they don't manage to fix things all of the time, the perception is still there, and missed when it's gone. Moms make things better, too, of course they do, but dads give you that rock-solid sense that everything will be alright. Even now I see the echoes of this in my husband's own relationship with T. and with L., too, and it always pulls my heart in all different ways.
This Father's Day weekend we traveled to Washington, D.C. and I was lucky: we spent it with two fathers important to us--my own father, and my husband's dad. On Saturday morning I met my dad at the metro station closest to my father-in-law's house (he's lucky enough to live on Capitol Hill), and we took the kids (and myself) to the carousel at the Smithsonian mall, and to the Natural History Museum.The Natural History Museum is by far one of our favorites for young kids, competing, of course, with the Air and Space Museum. It was one of my best-loved places to visit when I was a child, and I still remember that feeling of awe I used to get when I stepped into the foyer, saw the huge stuffed elephant, and then looked up at the immense rotunda looming above us. L. loved almost all the exhibits, but was a bit disappointed by the Hope Diamond. "It's not THAT big," he said, critically, after squeezing through the crowd of people to peer at it. We took my dad and Scott to lunch in Chinatown, at an unassuming place called the Full Kee that an equally unassuming man had recommended to us when we emerged, blinking and slightly confused, at the top of the escalator at the Gallery Place metro stop.
In my head all weekend I had the memories of my children's birth days floating around, somewhat disconnected in the chaos that follows a traveling family, but there all the same. When I think of Father's Day I think of being small again, and of my daddy's hand holding mine as I crossed the street, or resting on my forehead when I was so sick with strep throat that time in college. I think of his face as a pleased blur as I whizzed round and round on the carousel, first as a small child, then as a grown-up woman, with kids of my own.
I also think of that first day we became parents, Scott and I. He wheeled me into the NICU to see L. for the first time since I'd held him so briefly after birth. I sat in the chair, sore inside and out, and suddenly completely paralyzed by the thought that his body had come out of mine and that I was suddenly supposed to know--somehow--how to take care of him. Scott, not missing a beat, picked L. up and cradled him expertly in his hands. "Well, hello there," he said to him. Then, setting him down in his bassinet, he proceeded to change his impossibly tiny diaper, again so expertly and gently, with what seemed like one deft motion. I melted inside as I watched; there was my son and my husband--a father, just like that.