After years of providing, all that dads receive is blame. As much as I’d like to tell my dad thank you and take responsibility for my abnormalities, I’m obligated, as his child, to place blame squarely on him. He had strange tendencies. To name just one, he searched for junk in the ground. “Beep! Beep! Beep!” and my dad was digging up a fine specimen of pull tab, rusty nail, or contorted piece of unidentifiable scrap. He took me to some swell trash heaps to metal detect. Ever since, junk has been in my blood, for which I’ve had many tetanus shots.
That said, my mom should shoulder some blame. For Christmas, she gave my dad the metal detector because he needed a tenth hobby. And she also took away good practical gifts right after my dad gave them to me. She confiscated, in an hour, my first pocket knife. The knife was a little red beauty and so was the wound. I could barely hold in my tears of pain I was so elated. The thought of a legitimate scar was exciting enough, but showing off stitches would make me the most popular boy in second grade. “What did you get for Christmas?” I imagined my friends asking. I would hold out my hand stoically, three stitches in my forefinger. My friends would clamor in envy.
My dad, however, vetoed the Christmas morning trip to the emergency room for stitches. He was too busy sanitizing a fish hook in a lighter flame and tying on a small length of ten-pound monofilament. He already had the kitchen table prepped for an inpatient procedure, not wanting to pay Christmas morning emergency room costs. Alas, before he could perform surgery, he stopped the bleeding with superglue, which wasn’t nearly as cool as stitches made of fishing line.
I waver on whether to blame my dad for genetics. It’s not like he chose to pass on specific genes for my specially-formulated high-viscosity cholesterol. It probably wasn’t smart that he weaned me with bacon, but a boy’s gotta eat. According to my mom, he sprinkled bacon bits on baby food to improve the taste and lower the volume of my shrieking (I think parents may go to jail for that now). Still, it’s easy to blame my dad for my cholesterol, especially when I’m torturing myself by exercising and eating salads. But he’s been torturing himself by eating grilled chicken sandwiches for decades, ever since he had a stint put in when I was in high school. Mutual torture to stave off bad genetics is a great way to bond. There’s nothing like eating a salad together when you’d both rather have baby food sprinkled with bacon.
Though I’m trying to postpone the inevitable for as long as possible, I hope he’s around for my first stint. The thought of having it done without him is frightening. Bonding over a stint is surely better than bonding over a salad. Maybe I’ll have some of the same doctors and nurses he did. Maybe they’ll recognize some similarities in our blockages. We could both blame our forefathers.
If you still have your dad around, blame him while you still can. I think it’s best to do it while fishing. He’ll appreciate it, even if he doesn’t say “I blame you” back. He may merely grunt and go about his business of tying on a fish hook, which is something else I blame my dad for: He never taught me proper knot-tying. He just made up combinations of loops and twists and gave them a name. “This is the swallow tail knot,” he would say, after just watching barn swallows skim the pond surface. Later, I realized no one else had heard of a swallow tail knot. That’s probably how all knots were invented. Some dad somewhere was just trying his best to impress his offspring when he happened upon a combination of loops that actually held. Trying his best is one thing you can’t blame a dad for. Nor is tying his best, especially if the knot holds.