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Holidays in the Sun
By Chris Colcord
Fort Wayne Reader
The 4th of July falls on a Sunday this year, which is a total gyp: nobody gets an extra day off. The fireworks and the parade are okay, but what makes the holiday special is the chance to get a mini-vacation in the middle of summer. It's best when Independence Day lands on a Friday, which gives everybody an extra-long weekend and usually makes the preceding work week light and stress-free. Some will argue that it's more fortuitous for the 4th to be on a Thursday, for many bosses will throw Friday in as an off day as well, but you can't count on that.
And, oddly enough, the 4th isn't nearly as pleasurable when it's on a Monday, though it makes another "four-day" weekend. When it comes to days off, Friday beats Monday every time. And celebrating on a Monday is always unfulfilling. Of all the holidays, Labor Day and Memorial Day are the total duds, days when you lay around feeling vaguely guilty for laying around. Mondays are so hard-wired into our systems as coffee-laced, get-up-and-go days that it's disorienting not to be active. No, the 4th of July should always be on a Friday.
I'd like to point out that I have a job that gives me utter freedom and allows me to take any day off that I want, so there's no earthly reason why I should care what calendar holidays are coming up. But I do. I maintain an almost childish wish for extra days off for all, for long Christmas vacations, for snow days and freak thunderstorms that knock everybody off schedule. I've always been enamored with the notion of total disruption. As a parent, it's embarrassing to admit that I root for school delays in Winter, that I'm happy that FWCC has such totally sissified overreactions to inclement weather. One Sandy Thompson "Severe Weather Report" and schools are closed for the week. Which I wholly approve of.
I always expected that becoming a father would force me into some semblance of maturity, and that I would forego such juvenile daydreams, but I was wrong. I've remained surprisingly resistant to most forms of adulthood despite the fact that occasionally I have to insinuate an authority figure for my children's benefit. I've never been comfortable with the role of the insurance-ad, got-his-own-recliner patriarch — like the protagonist in Don DeLillo's great novel The Names, (who associated fatherhood with "Hitlerism"), I'm too self-conscious to be a hard-ass. And though I recognize my moral obligation to not turn them into monsters — I don't want my kids torturing small animals and setting fire to garages, after all — I can't help but feel how pitiable my attempts are at discipline and guidance. To be honest, I always feel inadequate in my job as father, which makes celebrating Father's Day such a tricky enterprise.
Of the two masculine roles, I've always preferred "son" to "father," and I liked Father's Day much better when my dad was alive. He was born on June 19th, which meant that occasionally his birthday would fall on Father's Day and cause a double celebration. He was a man of great appetite, so it was always easy to settle on a present for the day — cigars, scotch, a nice dinner. Thank God he had no desire to build things, so he never requested kill-joy presents like drills, bandsaws, and work benches. It wasn't until my adult years that I discovered how different my father was from most dads — for the longest time I thought that everybody's dad was like mine: eccentric, ironic, iconoclastic. And with a diabolical sense of humor.
In college, I had a summer job working construction and one day my boss reinforced to me the uniqueness of my father's parenting style. My boss was a self-made man, a small business owner, a rugged individualist — in other words, someone I hate — and he had distinctly different notions of how fathers should behave. On the job, we had an unforeseen break in the schedule, and since it drove my boss crazy to see his employees standing around on the clock, he ordered me to wax his car. Fine, I said. But you'll have to show me how. He stared at me with incredulity. "You mean to tell me your old man never made you wax his car?" he asked. I was appalled at the very notion. My dad was masculine, all right, but he didn't go for stupid male things like car worship and he never felt the need to boss me around. Of course not, I replied, thinking: What kind of sadist makes his kid wax his car? My boss and I stared at each other with reciprocal looks of horror and disgust.
Though I've inherited my father's eccentricities and dark humor, I feel I'm totally lacking the largesse he had to me when I was a kid. When he died, that's what I missed the most, the very space he inhabited. It seemed immense, that space, impossibly formidable. Losing your dad is such a singular pain. A year after my father died, a great friend called me up to tell me that her father, too, had just passed away, and I found that I was utterly incapable of saying anything to console her. Your dad is your first God, and losing that is unlike every other loss.
Like many guys my age, I feel like my dad was the real deal and that I'm the sham, the fake dad, the guy wearing a disguise that always slips out of place. But on Father's Day, I'll get the cigars and the cards and the loving words, so I better commit to the role, even if it'll never feel honest.