I’ll Be There for You

24 06 2015

I’ve written and spoken, more than a few times, about the idea of Coach versus Cheerleader – you know, the difference between giving advice and giving support – and why, while both are important facets of partnering and friendship, it’s crucial to know when to play which role.

This post is dedicated to the third C of partnership. My father embodied this role, so it’s only fitting that Father’s Day week, I write about

The Champion.

One of the most impressive things my dad ever said to me – and he was a very smart, kind, and exquisitely funny man – was

I don’t care who’s right or wrong; I’m on your side, Baby.

Can you imagine how safe he made me and my mother and my siblings feel by letting us know – in his words and his deeds – that he was there for us, not matter what kind of mess we’d made, no matter how big the monster chasing us, no matter how many times we’d made mistakes?

This is not to say he was never Coach; he gave wise and well-placed advice. He was also a very sly Cheerleader, master of effective understatement, laced with humor. No, this is not about celebrating a lenient permissive parent; this is about celebrating the total dedication of a man to his family – first, last, and always – and about the profound way that love empowered me. My dad’s been gone for over twenty years, but his wit, kindness, and love will never dim.

Next time your kid, your friend, or your spouse comes to you with a $#it%torm of a problem, try getting in their corner before you get on their case. You can work out the “how’d you get yourself into this mess and how do you plan to get out of it?” later. First, just declare your allegiance. Stand beside them against their bogeyman. All your coaching and cheering that follows will be so much more effective.

You were made to ride that white stallion. Saddle up.

Thanks, Dad.

6-24-15

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Growing Up

15 06 2011

I am at that awkward age – as an artist-cartoonist I admire has said – between 5 and 60.  As I approach the upper limit of that range, I have begun to think about growing up.  What does that mean?  I think I know what it does not mean, so I’ll start from there.

Growing up does not mean you have to act your age.

Growing up does not mean you have to always use your indoor voice.

Growing up does not mean you have to like jazz/sushi/Rush Limbaugh/4-door sedans/ .  .  . 

Growing up does not mean you have to order your ice cream in a dish.

Growing up does not mean you have to wear sensible shoes.

I believe growing up has nothing to do with appearances.  It is attitude – wonderful, freeing, comfortable, joyful attitude.

Growing up means knowing your friends love you because you know you love them.

Growing up means you feel no need to explain why you have McDonald’s wrappers in your floorboard.

Growing up means you know who you are and that’s pretty good.

Growing up means you know what you like and you are unapologetically enthusiastic about it.

Growing up means knowing where the lines are and coloring outside them when it suits you.

Father’s Day is Sunday.  My dad’s been gone for almost 20 years, now.  He understood what it meant to be grown up.  When the car got wrecked, his only reaction was to ask, “Was anybody hurt?”  No one was and that was the end of it.  When I went back to college at 28, after dropping out at 18, he insisted on paying my tuition, although he had only gone to the eighth grade himself; it was important to me, so it was important to him.  Those experiences taught me that to be grown up meant people were more important than things and you can support someone’s goals, even if you don’t understand them yourself.  

At last, I have learned what should have been the simplest thing about being grown up – to enjoy yourself.  Dad used to LOVE professional wrestling – you know, Saturday afternoon TV before cable fare.  At that time, I was an “adult” and embarrassed by his apparent gullibility, so I snorted, “I don’t know why you watch that crap.  You know it’s all fixed.”  His response was priceless. “I know they know who’s going to win, but I don’t know who’s going to win.” 

I get it.