I had an epiphany today. I like to think of myself as a pretty good dad. Not that I make decisions on that basis, but I have a set of principals and do my best to live up to them. From myself I demand honesty, integrity, an open mind and a relentless drive toward self improvement. For my children I try to encourage them to explore life, to find their passion and to not be afraid of failure but rather see it as a necessary milestone on the path to success. My kids are now grown, leading rich and fulfilling lives and able to meet life’s challenges head on. I’m immensely proud of both of them. By most measures, I would seem to be a successful dad. In fact, I’ve been blindly harboring that illusion for some time now. But today, in a seemingly innocent conversation with my daughter the enormity of my failure as a father became suddenly crystal clear. It is with a heavy heart that I share the details here of my shame.
My daughter and her boyfriend visited the storage unit the other day. The story here is that at one point my storage unit overflowed and I had to temporarily expand. In a few months I had consolidated back to one unit and was about to terminate the lease on the spare when my daughter and her boyfriend moved. She brought a bunch of her stuff to our house, then his shit plus the remainder of her stuff went into the storage unit. (As George Carlin has well established somebody else’s stuff is shit and your shit is stuff.)
Now this isn’t your garden-variety storage closet. This here’s your climate-controlled, garage-sized unit with 10 or 12 vertical feet and a roll-up door you could drive a truck through. Literally. If my 4×4 could fit in the hallway, I could park it in this storage unit.
“Ya know,” I remarked casually to my daughter, “I pay about $1,500 a year for that storage unit. Since every $0.50 an hour is $1,000 a year in gross income, that’s about $0.75 an hour. About $1 an hour after taxes. Kevin’s been wanting a raise, do you think he’d be happy with an extra $1 an hour?”
She chuckled. “Dad, it’s not like he sees any of that money.”
“He would if I cancelled the lease and tossed all his shit in the street.” (See aforementioned George Carlin reference.) “I’m his second employer and it’s not like I’m getting any work out of the guy.”
I was beginning to build up a head of steam. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy and all, but it’s not like we’re friends.”
She shot me a doubtful look. “Aw c’mon…”
“No, it’s true,” I interrupted. “He comes by with you but when you aren’t around he’s not calling me up or dropping by to pal around. Do you think if you two broke up he’d call me or your mom from time to time?”
I put my pinky to my mouth and my thumb in my ear in the universal mime-phone gesture. “Hi, it’s me. I used to date your daughter. I remember you. Do you remember me? Yeah? Cool. Well, nice chatting with you. Bye!”
Now I was on a roll. I charged ahead, oblivious to the cliff I towards which I was speeding. “Not that he’s a bad guy but we live in different worlds and that’s OK. But it makes you wonder, why am I spending all this money on storage for him anyway? Basically it’s because of you. I’m not scouring the streets for random strangers and offering to store their crap. The only reason I’m spending this money on him is because he’s dating you.”
Slight pause of realization, then over the cliff.
“Oh…my…God! Am I paying some guy to date my daughter? Holy shit, I am, aren’t I? I don’t fucking believe this! How the hell did this happen? I am actually paying some guy fifteen hundred dollars a year to date my daughter. I’m like pimping you out. Sorta. But in reverse. Oh shit, that can’t be good for your self-esteem. Most dads are like ‘Look kid, you’re a walking candidate for the Darwin awards. There’s $1,500 in it for you if you walk away and never speak to my daughter again.’ Me? No, I’m not that dad. I’m like ‘Look, you’re a pretty nice kid. If you date my daughter I’ll give you $1,500 a year in easy monthly installments with an auto-renewing lease!’ Fuck, he probably thinks he has a warranty on you.”
I grabbed her shoulders, my voice breaking with desperation and pain. “Look at me , honey. Look in my eyes. I can’t believe I’ve treated you this way and didn’t even realize it. I’ve got to make it right. I’m begging you…”
“Yeah, yeah, Dad,” she said in a mocking tone. “I forgive you.”
“Huh? What? Oh, yeah. Right. Thanks. But that’s not where I was going.”
“OK then, what were you about to say?”
“For the sake of our relationship… you and me…”
“Can you tell him to clear his shit out of storage sometime soon? I aint no pimp and you aint no storage ho.”