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A view from the back seat, passenger side

Aww, Dad. 

I saw you the other day... in me... through the eyes of my son. 

daddriving3.jpgTo a kid, it doesn't matter that his or her father has his own name, that he still feels like a kid from time to time--let alone that he even WAS a kid.  To a kid, Dad isn't a man on his own life's journey.  He's Dadda... then Daddy... then Dad (that transition is jarring... I remember the time each of the kids dropped the "dy" for the first time)... then it spirals into Pop, The Old Man, and who knows what else.  Kids define Dad by his title. 

I defined you by your title.  Probably for too long.  And too harshly. 

Now I'M the Dad.  And there's something you should know.  I've navigated every step by your vapor trail.  

NO ONE did "Dad" better than you.  No. One.  I've given your talks, done your goofy humor, I've even subjected the kids to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass while making their pancakes on a Saturday morning while Mommy is sleeping in. 

That's where I find you now.  In being my version of you.

Here's where I saw you on a recent Tuesday morning.

daddriving.jpgI always wanted you to take me to work.  And on weekends rambling around in your car, I used to wonder what it would be like to stow away in the back seat on your way to work.  I'd sit there--back seat, passenger side--and ask the car to give up your secrets:  "What does he look like on the way to work?"  "What does he do?"  "Does he listen to the radio?"  "Does he stop for coffee?" 

What does Dad look like when he's not being Dad??

On Tuesday, I took my son to work with me.  Changing lanes, I caught a glimpse of the 9-year old.    There he was--back seat, passenger side..  Watching me.  Asking the car to give up my secrets.  We did the grand tour:  the coffee shop, Imus in the Morning, traffic reports on News Radio 88, and then I played one of the CDs he brought along. 

daddriving2.jpgHe came with a backpack loaded with a Gameboy, CDs, the book he has to read for school... and they went home untouched.  I had lots of letters I'd saved up to work on, keeping a light workload, and asked if he wanted to proofread them for me.  So I dropped a punctuation mark or two... missed a capital letter... and watched him catch them with the same aplomb he uses fielding grounders or shagging flies.  It was glorious!  At nighttime, he recounted every minute to his Mom, who played it back to me.  I really don't know which one of us had more fun. 

Actually, I do.

I finally got to go to work with Dad--through the eyes of a 9-year old, from the back seat, passenger side. 

And it was fun.  

If I'm off to a good start, it's because of you.  And I hope that however long it takes, when the eyes that behold me are sharper... when the stakes are higher... when tests are harder, the kids will have a Daddy they remember... and a man they love regardless of what they call him (or how often). 

But maybe that's the price.  Maybe that's the risk a Dad has to take to do it right.  Like you did for us. 

Aww, Dad.   Happy Father's Day.

(The illustrations here were found at www.kevincannon.org when I Googled "dad driving" on a whim.  This man is very talented.)

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