from the book: Savvy Stories: funny things I learned from my daughter
My daughter is FIVE now! Here’s my recollection of that very first, very special Father’s Day. (The pictures are just a few faves of me and my kid to date.) Enjoy.
In June came my first Father’s Day. In anticipation of it, I started wondering “What do I want for Father’s Day?” Ice cream cake (my wife’s favorite), a trip to the in-laws (my baby daughter’s favorite), a little poolside hamburger/hotdog cookout at our house (my favorite). Ball game? Isn’t it a Good Dad thing that he takes his daughter out to the ballpark to watch a baseball game? And speaking of that, where can a person get a decent hat for a 3 month old to wear outside? And by decent, I mean one that’s not dorky looking. Not one of those floppy sun hats that everybody gets; I want a good-looking baseball cap or a Buccaneers cap or something for her. There’s just nothing for babies that’s nondorky.
Father’s Day makes you ponder things, too; I guess because I have my own kid now, I occasionally look at my own role models. My dad will be 85 next summer, and I think it would be a lot of work to be as good a dad as he has been all these years. But I will try. When I was a kid, my interaction with Dad was prone to sports, but not attending them, playing them. Dad liked soccer and golf, so he would want to play those sports with us as kids, but we also had bow and arrow sets that we could shoot in the back yard, BB guns… motorcycles. We were on swim team, which Mom always took us to, and Dad was pretty absent from swim meets, but he definitely set an example of working hard and being honest. Dad was a doctor with his own practice and he would work Monday through Friday, taking appointments all day and every evening too. On paper, he took Wednesdays off, but he would still make rounds at the hospitals to see his patients that were there, and he took Thursday evenings off too, but worked a lot of them anyway. Which meant that Monday, Tuesday and Friday he saw patients between 6pm and 9pm or whenever he wrapped up, which was often later than that. He would work Saturdays, and he would make rounds again on Sunday morning at the hospital when the rest of the family was across the street at St Stephen’s.
Dad was always at work, it seemed, but he had a lot of time for us, too. Watching television was not for him. We didn’t have cable TV when I was growing up, and I don’t even think he has it now. We did have a big antenna on the roof and a motorized dial controller for it down on the big TV in the family room. That was fun, trying to get that monstrosity fine tuned just right so we could see cartoons in the afternoon from WXIX in Cincinnati at our house in Hamilton. (They had Larry Smith’s puppets and cartoons introduced by “Batty Hattie from Cincinnati,” a witch puppet with a green face that flew around on a broom.) Dad frowned on watching too much TV, because he thought it would make us lazy. He was probably right. But since I was kid #6 out of 7, I’m not sure how much time or patience my Mom still had left by then.
When I think of my dad – when anybody does, probably – they think of an upstanding citizen. I’m sure it was my Mom getting up in the middle of the night to give me my 3am feedings, and not him; but that’s part of the reason that I get up in the middle of the night and give my daughter her 3am feedings. I don’t have the excuse of having doctor’s hours: getting calls at the house at all hours of the night from patients with sick kids or from an administrator at the hospital when a patient of Dad’s had taken a turn for the worse. He’d take the call and listen patiently to the worried parent describe the symptoms, and he’d make his recommendations or he’d get up and meet them at his office. If the hospital called at 2am, he’d get up and head out, through a foot of Ohio snow sometimes, to go take care of the situation. Sometimes he’d be gone for an hour or two with that stuff, sometimes all night. He never complained about that it; he loved his work and considered himself very lucky to be able to do what he loved with his life.
Wherever I went in our small town, everybody knew me. It was almost like being the child of a celebrity, in that everybody knew my dad, and knew that I was one of his kids; they didn’t know me, per se. When we went out to dinner as a family, wherever we went, somebody in the restaurant would always, always come over to the table and say Hi. And that kind of stuff continued outside of our small town. Very often I would be paying the check at a restaurant in Florida or on vacation in South Carolina, and the server would see my name on the credit card. Then the conversation would happen like it was recorded on tape and you could just about hit the play button. It went the same way every time: Alatorre? Are you any relation to Doctor Alatorre? (Yes.) Wow, he was my doctor when I was a kid/he was my mom’s doctor/ he was my grandma’s doctor/ he took care of our whole family – and it always ended the same way: we loved your dad!
When we were dating, Michele would be amazed that this would happen almost anywhere we went. It was pretty cool.
You might say that those are pretty big shoes to fill, but I think there are some shoes you just can’t fill. My dad practiced medicine for over 50 years, touching thousands of people’s lives in a meaningful way. If I’m lucky, I might get to be a role model for my daughter the way he was for me: honest, hard working, loving… It will be a lot of work to be as good of a dad to my daughter as he has been to me for all these years.
But I will try.
The day finally arrives: Father’s Day – my first. After all the build up and fanfare, how did we celebrate? I got to sleep late because Michele took the baby monitor and the baby upstairs and left me sleeping on the couch – so I zonked out for maybe 8 straight hours. Best present, ever. It was the first time in a long time that I had gotten 8 straight, uninterrupted hours of sleep. It was like a man coming out of the desert and getting a cool drink of water, just completely refreshing and amazing. When I finally got up, I went for a swim with my beautiful wife and our 3 month old daughter, then later we had a nice dinner, and I got a few presents and some chocolate. A great day (mostly because of the sleep). I’m sure everybody who celebrates Father’s Day remembers what their first Father’s Day was like as a Dad, but I know I will never forget this one. I have never been so constantly tired – sleepy – and so happy to do NOTHING but get some sleep. A nice, long, uninterrupted sleep. Perfect. I don’t think I was ever so tired before or since, and it definitely recharged the batteries.
I heard there was an ice cream cake, too, but we were too tired and full to get to any cake.
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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi” – yeah, we know. We’re trying to convince him to change that title – check out his other works here http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1425128559&sr=1-1 and check back often for interesting stuff.