Just Be There

A Father’s Day Reminder – Kids Remember

What are your kids going to remember about you from this Father’s Day? Or from other moments together with you?

It’s anyone’s guess. I still remember being 11 and walking around a used car auction with my father. He’d bought me a giant, chocolate chip cookie. But before I’d had more than a few bites, I dropped it. I remember the boxy 1980s cars, the gray sky, the oil on the ground and in the air, but most of all, I remember the cookie flipping out my hand and smacking the ground. It broke; I crumbled. That was almost 40 years ago.

Last Saturday, an irrigation pipe burst in our yard. It was more nuisance than emergency. Still, I texted Oscar, our irrigation guy, and he said his brother and cousin were in the area and would come over.

My middle daughter was having a birthday party, and I went out to pick up take-out tacos. When I got back Oscar’s brother asked me to show him what was going on. There was an urgency in his voice. As I explained, he barked at his cousin to hurry up. And then at one point he said, “C’mon, it’s his daughter’s birthday – let’s go so he can get back inside.”

Then he turned to me, a guy I didn’t know at all, and said: “I wish my father had come to my birthday parties. He always said he was working. He was never there.”

A few nights later, at an event in New York, I was talking to another guest, Josh. He asked what I did, and as I was telling him, he told me his father always called last minute to cancel on his visitation days. Josh lived with his mother, but his father lived only a couple of miles away.

“I just wished he wasn’t so matter of fact about it, that he’d have started off by saying he was sorry,” Josh said. “He’d say he had too much work to do and that was that.”

He added: “I’d wait there, ready to go, and then he’d call.”

In his 40s now, Josh told the story like he was still that nine-year-old boy.

Father’s Day has us remembering our fathers. But we know from psychology that emotionally stronger memories resonate and linger longer – that truly horrible or wonderful events stand out the most.  

What’s the best memory we have from today?