A Father’s Day Fountain of Youth

By Jeffery Cohen

As Father’s Day draws near, like so many, I think about my Dad. I remember him to be a man of honor, courage and heart – a kind, loving father – but I have to admit, I didn’t always see him that way.

When I was a kid, I referred to my father as “my old man” – and I wasn’t kidding. Through a ten-year-old boy’s eyes, the guy was old, plain and simple. I’d lay awake in bed at night wishing for a young father, instead of one that was forty-two. Ancient, I thought. I dreamed of someone who was maybe just twice my age – a twenty-year-old guy – the kind who would ride me around town in a shiny red convertible. He and I would snack on bags of Cheese Doodles, wash them down with root beers and maybe even have a catch once in a while. But no matter how much I wished and prayed, I was stuck with “the old man.

”Let’s face it. He didn’t know anything as far as I was concerned – a real square. Take Elvis Presley for instance. Elvis was “The King,” and everyone knew it – everyone except my Dad. I could have recited every word of every song Elvis ever sang. I knew his favorite color, his favorite food, his birthday. My dad couldn’t even get his name right. He called him “Edsel Pretzel.” The old man’s speed was another old guy by the name of Sinatra. Said he was the greatest crooner that ever lived, whatever a crooner was. Then he’d tell this story of how they met in Pearl Harbor during the war and what a great guy “Old Blue Eyes” was in person. Now see? That’s what I mean. My old man was in World War ll! I read about that war in school. Can you believe it? My father in the history books. Talk about old.

At ten, all I cared about was growing sideburns, wearing black slacks and snapping my fingers. I tried to explain it to Dad as I sang him the lyrics of a rock-and-roll song I’d heard on my transistor radio. “Black slacks…they’re cool, Daddio…when you put ‘um on your ready to go! ” The old man thought I was already ready to go…to my room.

I never expected that he’d understand cool fashion. Look at the way he dressed. Most of the time he wore gray cotton work pants and a plaid flannel shirt, just like what you’d expect from an old man, I thought.

It wasn’t like I didn’t give him a fair chance. I tried to “young him up.” When my brothers and I slept out in the backyard on our first camping trip, I invited him to stay out with us. He sat around until about eleven tossing wood on the campfire and telling us ghost stories. Then he chickened out and headed inside with some excuse about having a bad back and not being able to sleep on the damp ground. More like an old back. I caught him sneaking out and checking on us a couple of times that night. Just like an old man – a real worrywart.

“How about a catch,” I’d call as he dragged that old, tired body out of the car after work. He slipped a baseball mitt on a couple of times, and we tossed a hardball back and forth until I got clunked on the head from a pop fly he threw. That was the last catch we ever had. Guess he was afraid he’d break me.

I never thought the old man was much of an athlete when I was young. I did see him play in a company softball game once. He looked to be a pretty fair ball player. He actually knocked a fastball over the head of the center fielder. If he didn’t get that Charlie horse in his leg trying to stretch past third base, he might have wound up with a home-run. His teammates carried him off of the field. I figured it was because of that cramp and his rickety old bones. Turns out that his hit was what won the game for them. I guessed that was pretty much the end of his ball playing career. Maybe a guy his age was better suited to watching baseball on TV rather than playing it, I wondered.

I eventually gave up trying to change him. I made my way through high school, college and then headed out into the world. Funny, but with every passing year that made me older, my Dad seemed to be just a bit younger than I’d remembered.

One warm Father’s Day, the old man and I got together. We were sitting around in our gray cotton pants and plaid flannel shirts with a bowl of Cheese Doodles, sipping a beer and watching the ball game. In the background, the stereo was playing a great new Frank Sinatra album I’d just picked up. As we talked about the family, politics, clothes, sports and even “The King’s” passing, (he still insisted on calling him Edsel Pretzel), the old man didn’t seem so old to me anymore. It was then that I realized I had gotten my childhood wish. I was thirty-two years old, and my Pop? He was just twice my age.

About this writer

  • Jeffery Cohen

    Jeffery Cohen

    Freelance writer and newspaper columnist, Jeffery Cohen, has written for Sasee, Lifetime and Read, Learn, Write. He’s won awards in Women-On-Writing Contest, Vocabula’s Well Written Contest, National League of American Pen Women’s’ Keats Competition, Southern California Genealogy Competition, and Writer’s Weekly writing contest.

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2 Responses to “A Father’s Day Fountain of Youth”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Jeffery, this essay went straight to my heart. What a wonderful gift you have to be able to tell such an enchanting tale and touch the reader deeply.

  2. Erika Hoffman says:

    Reading your story reminded me of Mark Twain’s quote about his dad: ” When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant, I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

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