I remember when I was a kid, my mom and dad did Forced Family Fun. My parents are outside people. They like to hike and camp and raft and fish. In my awkward, I-Hate-Everyone 'tween phase, I did not like to be outside. I also did not like to be with my mom and dad. Because of course, I hated them. Or I was just a couple years from hating them...but you can sense these things when you're ten years old. By the time I'm twelve, I am going to be so mad at them!
In any case, we did a lot of outdoor family fun. Lots of hiking and camping, some biking, and a little fishing.
And despite my hatred for all things outside, and despite the impeding teenage doom, I usually had fun. I especially had fun at the beach, because I have always loved the beach, but I did enjoy the hiking and the camping, assuming it wasn't too hot or too cold, and as long as it wasn't raining. I especially enjoyed the trails with bridges, where my dad would run up ahead and hide under them, and then act like the troll from the Billygoats Gruff when Tony and I would come traipsing by. That was (and is) one of my favorite Mike Whitmore Moments with my dad. I'd probably still hike with my parents if my dad would hide under a bridge like he used to.
I also hated fishing. Unless it was at Uncle Jimmy's pond, with my dad. And I wasn't a strong swimmer, so I didn't go on boats or out in a raft, unless it was with my dad at the helm. I would still never go on a guided raft trip, I only enjoy the freezing cold water and the blistering heat, because it's with my dad.
My mom told me that recently, my dad had said that he was worried he'd worked too much overtime when my brother and I were little, and that he wasn't around enough. The funny thing about that comment is, I barely even remember my dad going to work - I just remember that he got up super early and turned the heat on when he left so the house was warm when I got up for school. And I certainly don't have any memory of his being absent from anything important, or even from my daily life.
My dad was home for dinner every night. He was home to play catch (before he hit me in the face and I refused to ever, ever play catch again). He was home to build me a sandbox in the backyard, and to tie a board to a rope and hang it from the tree and call it a swing. We had ice cream and Nerf gun wars together, and because I was always as nerdy as I am now, he challenged me to spelling contests and would cheat at cards by looking at my reflection in the fireplace doors. He was there when I sliced my hand open trying to carve a pumpkin with a grapefruit knife (his fault), when I electrocuted myself by putting a hair barrette in the light socket (my fault), and when I threw up after losing my first tooth in a pile of blood (mom's fault).
In high school, my dad took me to a Father-Daughter dance that he really didn't want to go to. He watched me cheer at football games, was there at at least one big dance competition, and saw me graduate high school and college. When I broke my foot the summer after high school graduation, he was there to pick me up out of the tub when I couldn't get out myself, and after I had lady-biz surgery last year, he drove maxipads (gross) and Popsicles to my apartment so my mom didn't have to leave me by myself. He's been there to change my oil, rotate my tires, hang up shelves, make security door sticks, and kill the spiders in my apartment. He was home to drop everything and come help me move my heavy furniture when I was finally ready to move out of Lucifer's house, with no notice whatsoever.
My dad's been home to take care of me, to snuggle with Juno when no one else is looking - even though he is allergic to her, and to make sure that I know, that no matter what (and despite what my mom says), I can always come home if I have to.
I don't remember a moment of my life where my dad wasn't home. And it's a good example of the way people remember things differently. My dad feels like he was gone a lot, like he missed a lot, like he wasn't home enough. I remember the days that he was home, the times he was there, the things that he didn't miss. Maybe he did work a lot of overtime, but that's not what I remember. I remember when he blew out his knee and was home for weeks on end. I remember when he took me camping when I was little and Tony was a baby, just me - not Tony. I remember him and my mom helping me into his gold jersey shirt when I broke my arm in 1st grade and had to go to the emergency room. I remember when he took me rafting for the first time. And I remember when he hit me in the face with a baseball - it was the same summer when we would play ball in the yard every evening because he was so excited that I could hit the ball into the neighbor's yard. I remember when he taught me to drive, and then when he bought me my first car and had to teach me to drive a clutch. I remember him being home at dinner after every first day of school (my favorite day of the year), and him always telling me to drive careful, even when I was only going down the street. My dad has never missed a holiday or a birthday, and is always home to watch Charlie Brown and The Grinch on Christmas Eve.
I don't remember the times my dad was busy at work or if he was ever out of town working; I remember him being home, every night, when it was time to eat dinner and do homework. I remember what matters - that my dad is always home when I need him.