Years ago I gave up on the idea that Real Dad would ever be Fantasy Dad. Every now and then I find myself getting misty eyed while reading over Father's Day cards, trying to select one that represents Real Dad's and my relationship without sounding like I'm a sarcastic bitch. I usually decide on one that basically says this:
May your Father's Day be as great as you are, Dad!
In other words, may you get what you deserve. It's a nice way of saying, "May your Father's Day be as shitty as you were a shitty father!"
But I'm 42 now, an old lady, and Dad's a very old man. My teenage arguments with my dad were so long ago. For the most part, Dad and I have no problem with each other anymore. We basically leave each other alone. I know he doesn't like kids so I don't invite him over to hang out with his grandchild much. Nothing personal. I know it's not that he doesn't like my kid in particular, he just doesn't like kids in general. We get together a few times a year. He talks about dancing and bridge. I talk about Katie. We both nod and smile while the other talks, but we don't really listen. We hug and leave and that's that.
I know I'll never have a wonderful relationship with my dad, and I'm fine with that.
But that doesn't mean I can't have a fantasy dad. Although my own father is out of the fantasy, I can replace him with someone who really wants to be there: Mister Rogers.
I never watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood when I was a kid. I was too busy watching All In the Family and Police Woman with my parents. I did get the TV to myself long enough to watch Sesame Street, and I'm glad for that part of my upbringing. But it wasn't until I had a daughter myself that I discovered the wonders of Fred Rogers.
I "liked" the PBS Parents Facebook page, so now I get regular updates about Fred Rogers' life and legacy. I found out that tomorrow would have been his 85th birthday. My own dad will be 86 in a couple of weeks. I might feel obligated to bake my real dad a cake for his birthday, even though he'll no doubt criticize it for some reason or another. He can't have sugar or he can't have artificial sweeteners or he can eat raspberries just not the seeds. It's never simply, "Oh, thank you." It's always, "Oh, thanks, but..." Still, no matter how awkward things are between us I can't seem to shake the dutiful daughter role in real life. Good thing I've got my fantasy world to comfort me. I genuinely feel like making some corn pudding for Fantasy Dad's birthday this year. Here's the recipe. It will be warm and comfy, like a hug from Mister Rogers himself.
We celebrated Mister Rogers' 85th birthday last night by having comfort foods for dinner. Our friend Megan and her two girls came over and brought homemade macaroni and cheese. Will made homemade pizza. I made Fred Rogers' grandma's recipe for corn pudding. It really did feel warm and comfy. Happy birthday, Mister Rogers! Thanks for reminding us what's really important in life: good food, good friends, good family. Made from scratch. Just the way you like it.