One For Dad

Da walk by da lakefront

Da walk by da lakefront

Back when I lived in Chicago I always made a point of going home to my parents’ house in the suburbs over Father’s Day weekend. I wish I could say it was out of dedication to being home for Dad to celebrate, but the truth was that I lived in an extremely Puerto Rican neighborhood and Father’s Day weekend marked the annual Puerto Rico Day parade which was celebrated with the generous application of fireworks, airhorns, revving car engines, screaming children, totally-not-at-all-gunfire, and grandisimo Puerto Rican flags:

Borrowed from Slightly Insulting Chicago Posters' Tumblr as a sign of great flattery, I assure you.

Borrowed from Slightly Insulting Chicago Posters’ Tumblr as a sign of great flattery, I assure you.

My father and I share a love of quiet. We are both introverts who enjoy our time alone. Growing up we rarely got to see Dad except for evenings and weekends; he worked downtown in the city and each work day was bracketed by a train commute that took an hour in each direction. He got home around seven and we went straight to the dinner table, then an hour or two of homework and then bed and he would already be out the door for the morning train by the time we woke up in the morning.

I don’t recall ever feeling bereft because of the brevity of our time together on weekdays. Dad was good about Quality Time: reading books to us out loud over dessert and making a point of coming to all of our band concerts and softball games and theatre performances. I think I was about eight when he introduced Days With Dad which we were each given as a coupon in our Christmas stocking inviting us to choose some activity that we wanted to spend a day doing with Dad. For the first one I chose to go see the Thorne miniatures at the Art Institute and we ate lunch at the Bennigans across the street.

So I didn’t really realize how much time he didn’t spend at home until I graduated college and was working downtown in the city and living at home. For a while we took the same trains to and from work and would walk together across the Loop in our matching Commuter lockstep. I was literally walking in his footsteps for several months before I couldn’t take it anymore and moved into my first apartment in Puerto Rican ground zero so that I could finish work at five be home by six instead of by seven.

Once I was out of the house but still working in the city our “Days With Dad” turned into “Lunches With Dad”. Back then the Art Institute was still free all day on Thursdays and it was possible to spend an hour or two there over lunch taking in an exhibit (we went to see a special exhibit of children’s books illustrations that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise). Then the museum policy changed so that it was only free after five on Tuesdays and our lunches turned into walking-picnics along the lakefront.

Now I live  thousands of miles across the country so our walks along the lakefront are few and far between. I miss our conversations of long silences and engineer-like deconstruction of How Stuff Works. It’s not the kind of conversation that can be had over a phone. Maybe this is the kind of thing they always talk about when emphasizing how important it is for Dads to be “present” in their kids’ lives.

Anyway I’m getting a little misty talking about all this so I’d better wrap it up: my Dad is great and I’m glad to have him.

Happy Father’s Day.



~ by Gwydhar Gebien on June 16, 2013.

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