My father and I have a very strange birthday ritual. The birthday person spends the entire day hoping that the other has forgotten. The phone is avoided and the clock watched nervously until the day is officially over. Then he/she basks in the superior glow of knowing that the other forgot his/her birthday and they now have a powerful piece of leverage for the entire year.
No matter what they do, they can play the “You forgot your only father’s/daughter’s birthday” card. The power is immense and intoxicating. There is also some very pleasurable groveling involved.
My dear, sweet step-mom does not understand us at all. She’s the type who celebrates your birthday all week with surprises, special meals, presents and parties. She cannot understand how anyone could get such pleasure from being forgotten.
So for my father’s birthday I am robbing him of this pleasure, because even on his birthday I won’t let him win.
My dad is awesome. If anyone thinks that I say, write or do inappropriate things, I can point to my dad and say, “I got it from this guy.” He is ten times the freak I am. Likewise if anyone compliments my sense of humor, writing, or lack of inhibition, I can also say that I got it from him. He maintains that I got my nice boobs from his side of the family and thus I should thank him for those, too. But that’s just strange and so is he.
My dad has given me so much over the years and I have given him the satisfaction of saying, “You know that time when I was a teenager and you were really hard on me about x-y-z? I appreciate that, it taught me an important lesson.” I got my love of pranks from him as well as the ability to place myself at the dead center of any joke. We don’t mind when people laugh at us.
Even when he did questionable things, like dragging five year-old me to the motorcycle shop and making me sit in the showroom alone while he talked shop for hours (quality time with dad, you know) it taught me patience. I practically grew up on the back of his old Honda with a busted starter. I had to push start it and then chase him down the road to hop on. That’s character building stuff for a teenage girl who was prone to taking herself too seriously. I was always happy to be around him and do things with him. Sullen as I was, I enjoyed his company.
My parents divorced when I was in the 2nd grade and I lived with my father during high school. I practically raised myself, doing my own cooking, cleaning, laundry (I had to haul it three blocks to the laundromat) grocery shopping, getting myself to places on time, having a job, etc. I don’t see him as being neglectful but his style of parenting sharply contrasts with the helicopter style you see these days. He was doing his own thing as was I. He loved his work (he’s a professor) and taught me by example that you should work hard at the things you love. He knew me well enough to give me space, responsibility and trust. He also left my “female” education in the capable hands of our friend Marcia, who acted as a surrogate in my own mother’s physical absence.
When I left the home at 18, I was nervous but prepared. Thanks dad. Really. Thank you.
I am who I am because of my dad. He and I were perfect for each other growing up. So happy birthday Dad! Don’t fuck up this year because you ain’t got nothin’ on me. I love you!