One Father’s Day, I found myself literally up to my neck in cold water and figuratively up to it in fatherhood, thanks to a wayward picnic table umbrella that sank to a most inconvenient depth and distance from the banks of the pond in our back yard.
How did this happen?
Well, when a man loves a woman …
You may have noticed that children tend to be a byproduct of marriage. I’d like to paraphrase an amusing old ad campaign for DirecTV. It goes something like this:
“When you love a woman, you have children. When you have children, you have a daughter. When you have a daughter, she becomes a teenager, and when she becomes a teenager, she does nothing about the windblown picnic umbrella she saw on the lawn. When she does nothing about the umbrella she saw on the lawn, it ends up in the pond. When it ends up in the pond, she refuses to go get it. When she refuses to go get it, you end up in the pond with the umbrella.”
I should conclude with, “Don’t end up in the pond with the umbrella. Get rid of your daughter,” but I won’t.
After 18 years, I’m still fond of Amber, umbrella notwithstanding, and will miss her presence after she transfers from our local community college to an institution of higher learning two hours away. I reminded myself of all that as I tried to fish the darned umbrella out with my sneakers mired in muck. It was raining, too, and, well …
Hey, she had a choice. Go get the umbrella or buy us a new one. Until then, you’re grounded. So she went shopping and came home empty-handed, complaining of a lack of disposable funds to make a purchase. Then the waiting game began.
“Young lady, you should thank your lucky stars that your father is a columnist who needs something to write about!” I said several days later as I marched past her room in my swim trunks, an old t-shirt, and ratty sneakers.
“You need something to write about?” she asked, incredulous.
Darn tootin’. Thus I decided to ponder, pardon the pun, the meaning of fatherhood from this rather clammy place where our kids used to swim.
My daughter can be as sweet as peas or she can wear a thundercloud scowl that reminds me of the Peanuts character Lucy. It was Lucy who declared, “I’m not going in there!” when I told her that she had to fetch the umbrella from the pond.
So here I am, cold, wet and icky, thinking about how lucky I am to be in this clammy soup at all.
One day when Amber was a toddler still unable to speak comprehensible English, she squeezed through a gap we didn’t know a dog had created in our backyard gate. Fortunately, our neighbor spotted Amber before she’d gone too far and gotten lost, but she had crossed the street on her way to who knows where.
There was also the time my wife was stowing stuff in our attic when tottering toddler Amber managed to climb over a safety barrier, ascend the stairs and appear at the top. Panicked, Victoria talked her into holding still long enough to be safely grabbed.
So, given a fateful choice between being cold, wet and aggravated or the dreadful possible alternatives, I’ll gladly choose a bath in the pond any day.
And lo and behold, Amber actually spent a considerable amount of time cleaning the umbrella after I emerged with it like the Creature from the Black Lagoon with an equivalent disposition.
I’m happy to report that the umbrella is in service again and I’m grateful for the column idea.
Thanks for the Father’s Day gift, Amber. I’m grateful for you, too.
This column originally appeared in The Poughkeepsie Journal and is included in my book, “The Goose in the Bathroom: Stirring Tales of Family Life.” To obtain a copy, please visit Amazon or Barnesandnoble.com.
In the mood to peruse another sample? How about The Tale of the Dreaded Can of Apricots?