In the early 1980’s, when I was as young as 4 or 5….the first thing I ever wanted to grow up to be was a rock star. My sister and I would grab anything we could use as an instrument and we’d hop up on the brick fireplace ledge and rock out to what ever song happened to be playing on our parents old vintage cabinet record player in our downstairs family room. By rock out, I mean we danced and lip sang to the sounds of Abba, Hall and Oats, Paul Simon, Blondie, Billy Joel and many other albums our parents owned. I used to tell my parents I wanted to be a rock star. What kid didn’t?
As the early years of elementary school slowly went by, I began paying closer attention to things like what my dad did for a living. He was a salesman for a welding company. He had all of these awesome tools and gadgets and company promotional material in our garage that I always wanted to get my hands on. He even showed me a little welding. Suddenly I now wanted to do what my dad did. One day I told him that when I grew up, I wanted to be a welder. I thought by saying that, my dad would be proud. Instead, he corrected me. In a disgusted voice, he said, “It’s a filthy and miserable job that nobody should ever want to do”. I suddenly felt like I went from being my dads right hand man to being very little again.
Time moved on and I started middle school. One day l remember my father asking me what I wanted to do when I graduated from high school. I was eleven or twelve years old at the time, with my obsession of baseball just taking off, so naturally my answer was that I wanted to be a baseball player. I expected a grin from my father, maybe a pat on the back. Instead of showing any possible support or words of encouragement….he broke everything down to me about what was just an unlikely dream and what was a reality. What made his answer even more frustrating was that it was coming from a man who not even once ever asked if I wanted to “have a catch” with him.
Now, almost 30 years later….I’m now the acting father, but one with a different perspective. In 2010 I switched to part-time so I could take on the full time duties of raising my boys. When my oldest son Evan was 4 or 5 he used to tell me how he wanted to be a “daddy” and have his own kids to take care of and play with when he grew up. A dad could never tell a son to not want something like that. Even though that job has taken more life out of me than anything else in the world….becoming a parent has also been the most rewarding experience of my life.
One evening while I was getting ready to head in to work for my overnight shift, Evan said to me, “I want to work for your company when I grow up.” Even though I loved Evan for wanting to be like dad….I suddenly understood where my dad was coming from when I first told him I wanted to be a welder. I didn’t react the way my father did though. Instead, I gave Evan a hug and commended him for wanting to be so much like dad. That was followed with a conversation between the two of us about how many different amazing types of careers there are out there and how deciding what you want to do with your life can sometimes be the hardest part. I hinted around Jim Carey’s famous quote…”You can fail at what you don’t want….so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
Evan has a great head on his shoulders. He has a huge heart, he’s artistic and he is always looking to learn. When he needs guidance, I’m here to provide it. I will support my little man, and his younger brothers, Rylan and David, at achieving whatever they choose to do in life…..until the very end.
The big picture of what I always wanted to be when I grew up had never fully come into view until now. If I could go back in time, I would have simply answered my old man by saying…..”I just want to be a father when I grow up”.
Maybe that would have made him proud.