on dads by sara benincasa

2009-06-22 – 10:06 a.m.

let me preface this by saying, i did not write this. sara benincasa did. but some parts of this are so spot on, i had to do a little copy and pasting. the entire entry can be found here:


and so she begins:

For me, the most surprising thing about becoming an adult was discovering that I actually liked my dad. It certainly hadn’t always been that way. At times throughout my childhood I’m fairly certain we mutually despised each other, though he might protest that he never, ever stopped loving me. As if you can’t love someone and hate them in equal measure at the same time. For most of my upbringing, I’d say he thought I was brilliant and selfish and I thought he was brilliant and, well, selfish. We fought a lot….
…Incidentally, my Catholic father has told me repeatedly over the course of my life that he doesn’t care about the religion of the person who I bring home. “As long as he’s nice to you,” he says. Should I have offspring, I intend to pass the same attitude on to them. Life is too short and love is too precious to squabble over which version of the God fairy-tale you were forced to listen to on the weekends….
…Grades were of the utmost importance in his father’s household, and thus in his own. I learned early on that high grades merited approval and a certain hands-off approach to my extracurricular life, while low grades (and in math they were always low) resulted in tense father-daughter tutoring sessions that generally ended with someone cursing (that would be him) or someone crying (that would be me). The fact that these sessions even occurred at all was evidence of how much he cared, but I’m not going to sugarcoat the fact that he could be a total asshat when frustrated….
…Once, when I was a baby, my dad sat in a rocking chair with me and held me until I fell asleep. He has a great affinity for babies, and they bring him joy and peace–which in turn tends to make him sleepy. That particular day, my 24-year-old, overworked, underpaid, semi-clueless, probably-totally-freaked-out dad relaxed so much that he fell into a slumber of his own. His arms relaxed, and I rolled down his torso and legs into the crook of his feet. I didn’t scream or cry. I didn’t even wake up. We were just there, breathing together, two bundles of nerves and feelings, sleeping in tandem, and even asleep we both knew we were safe.

Shortly thereafter, my mother appeared and raised holy hell, as was her right. Having carried me successfully inside her body for nine months, she was naturally peeved that my father could not carry me for ten minutes without falling asleep on the job. Shifting the blame, Dad protested that it was my mother’s yelling that caused me to wake up and start screaming. In a sense, he was right; I have always been painfully sensitive to my mother’s shifts in moods, a tendency that I later learned to curb by holding her at a distance, sometimes harshly. My dad laughs about the story now, and teases my mom. I have to say that if my future babydaddy ever falls asleep while sitting upright and holding my spawn, my reaction will mostly likely not be sunshine and cupcakes, either.

But the key element I take away from the story is this: even when he fucked up and fell asleep on the job, he didn’t drop me. He still held me up, by the skin of his teeth or the crook of his feet. His heart–and his ankles–were in the right place, even if his brain was on vacation. And so as an adult, I’ve come to define what I want in a partner not by whether or not he drops the ball, but whether he manages, somehow, to catch it at the last second. And to try harder next time. And to forgive himself for fucking up. And to laugh about it later.

So, belatedly, Happy Father’s Day, Dad. Thanks for never letting me hit the ground.

P.S. I could use like fifty bucks. I’m just saying.

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