Byko: Confessions of a father

FFD1247F-10E7-4F82-A587-13E891612B75
Your favorite columnist with Dad: This will be the second Father’s Day without him.

I WAS NOT there when my children were born.

Well, I was there, but back then fathers were barred from the delivery room. I don't know if the doctors feared we'd pass out or just be a nuisance, but we were restricted to the waiting room (where smoking was allowed).

Jump forward a few decades, and fathers are in the game - active participants as birth coaches and videographers.

The sharing of the experience as a birth coach (I am told) is a supreme act of "togetherness." Making a video of the birth - and posting it online - crosses a line for me. It erases a privacy zone that some people don't even recognize.

To tell the truth, I didn't want to be in the delivery room. Pretty much I thought the whole process was gross, maybe because no one had explained to me the beauty and miracle of birth.

Now that I think about it, as a kid I was the "midwife" when my dog gave birth, to more than one litter, and it was pretty cool. I had never seen anything like that before. Maybe if someone told me to pretend my wife was my dog . . .

So I was not there when The Son and The Daughter arrived. I was nearby, but not a witness to them coming out of the birth canal. I think we are all better for that. I have plenty of other recurring nightmares to entertain me.

Where I am now, I'm both binoculars and a rearview mirror. I have coming and going views of Father's Day.

This is the second Father's Day without Dad, and it's not like I need that day to bring him to mind. I think of him almost every day. Mom, too.

For the first chunk of my life, Father's Day was something I had to do for my father. Then, in my 20s, I became a father. But it would be almost a decade before my children were old enough to fully participate.

Once that happened, I was looking both up and down on Father's Day - up to my father, down to my children.

Now I'm back to one way. I have children and no parents and, simply because of my age, I am the family patriarch. My sister is the matriarch, she gets the final say, and everyone likes it that way.

On Father's Day, I do think about Dad and his many lessons, some accepted, some not. I also think about what kind of a father I have been - and am.

Let's say there is room for improvement.

The Daughter has no children, so I can't judge myself against her, The Son has two daughters, and when they were infants he threw himself into the bottle-and-diaper routine without reservation. In that way he was a better, or at least more willing, young father than I had been.

If you are wondering, yes, I have told him so, even though we have an awkward relationship, which is not unusual for fathers and sons. I went through a similar period with The Daughter, when she was a teenager, but that's all in past tense.

Each is like me in some ways, and that's not always a good thing. I have pretty much outgrown stubbornness, but they are still there.

They don't talk to one another, and that pains me. It is something that, as a father, I cannot resolve. I have tried. They are adults. There is no forcing them.

In the last decade, The Daughter and I pulled together, each supporting the other through adversity. She fought off cancer, I crawled through the wreckage of a disastrous marriage.

The awkwardness with The Son falls more on me than on him to resolve. Maybe I'll say something when he calls me on Sunday as he usually does on Father's Day.

We're all a long way from the delivery room, but it's never too late to try to fix something.

stubyko@phillynews.com

215-854-5977 @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

Columns: ph.ly/StuBykofsky