He’s always up there.
My dad, Rich, is the voice in my head, whether I like it or not. The past six weeks, my wife and I have been looking for a house, and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that paused to think about something after every house we looked at: what would dad think about this one?
It doesn’t have to do with needing his approval or permission to follow through on a plan; a son never stops wanting to know what his dad thinks. Again, a voice in my head who won’t shut up.
A son never stop watching their dad, hoping to be noticed. When I got my first writing gig at KSDK News, I called my parents. My first story could have been gibberish, but they needed to know. “Dad, what do you think?” When I was a kid playing baseball in Kenard Elementary, I wanted my dad to watch me bat. Playing catch was an event, because I tried to be as accurate as I could with the throws.
I didn’t go to film school; I went to Rich Buffa film school. We created an institution at places like Esquire, Kenrick, Des Peres, and the Tivoli. A movie would be seen, an experience would take place, and on the way home, my brother Bryan and I would pelt my dad with questions about its plot, ending, morals, good guys, bad guys, and the acting.
We watched In The Name of the Father with Daniel Day Lewis, and the father-son relationship in that film tore me up. When I was all grown up, we watched Wedding Crashers, and laughed so hard during one scene, breathing was suddenly a chore. The people in the theater didn’t know what was wrong with us. They didn’t know the same things made us laugh. And Vince Vaughn reminded me of my uncle Bobby too, who is hilarious. You want a comedy show, send Rich and Bobby on tour, and watch mics drop.
I was always watching my dad. One night, I spent hours upon hours listening to my Uncle Curt and my dad ramble on about a number of things. I wasn’t even ten years old yet, but half of it made sense. I didn’t care, because they were rock stars. It was like being backstage at a concert.
I still watch my dad. We have long winded conversations about life, women, desires, and movies. Whenever I leave a movie and the PR rep asks me what I thought, I have already reviewed in my head with my dad. As a kid, I left movies, and couldn’t wait to find out if we both liked the movie. That doesn’t stop. It never should.
My son, Vinny, watches me a lot. Whenever I forget, my wife reminds me that he is looking at me, waiting for my attention. It has nothing to do with approval, and everything to do with being active in his life. He’s going on six years old, but I feel like we have created enough content for a trilogy. Every little adventure. All the moments, documented. Kids don’t forget shit. They really don’t.
I’m not good at everything. If you ask me to assemble a piece of furniture, I’ll stare at the instructions like I’m looking at Narnia. I am not that handy, more of a helper than a fixer. I can cook, but still ask my wife, “is this cooked all the way?” When it comes to math, I’m not sure if my parents meant the end of innocence happens during my teen years, or I just forget ALL the algebra I learned beforehand. I am good at math, but when I watch Matt Damon draw on that board in Good Will Hunting, I get a headache.
I am often too harsh with my words, and that comes from my dad. Bullshit doesn’t fit into my way of explaining things. When I yell at Vinny too much, I almost slap myself, and say internally, “It’s not about you, asshole!” It’s not.
I am a good dad. I can’t fuck that up. That is our number one mission once we become fathers: pay attention, know when to nurture and when to discipline, and take it easy. Life is harsh enough, that parents can be the nice ones. Knowing when to press and when to be lenient is an art form, and it’s not easily learned. I’m getting better.
I learned it from my dad the past 32 years. I don’t count the first three, because let’s be honest, who the fuck knows what they were doing from day 1 to 1,095?
Here’s what I want to do as Vinny gets older: take it easy on him as he experiences hurdles. Participation trophies still suck, but if he has a bad game, I want to talk to him and not yell at him. I won’t scream at an umpire or official, because once again, it’s not about me. It’s about him. You know the dad that’s wearing a super-tight Under Armour polo that’s creating new veins in his arms and whose jaw line is cherry red with anger because Timmy didn’t move the runner over? Those dads suck, and need to chill.
Father’s Day, like Mother’s Day, is just another day to remember that good parents are the true heroes. The ones who stick around, grind away at the ultimate job, and leave a positive impact on their kid.
Forget people liking or disliking my writing. When I am older and Vin is off at school or whatever he decides to do, I want him to tell his friends that he had a good dad. When that happens, I can clock out, relax, and take it easy. I won’t stand down, but can be at ease.
If I didn’t have a kickass dad, I wouldn’t know what to do these days. He is my best friend, and I hope Vinny feels the same way in 30 years.
When my wife and I found our house last week, the first thing I thought about was smoking cigars on the back patio while looking out onto the street. I thought, “dad would like that”.
I’m 35 years old, and still need to know what he thinks. Am I doing it right? When people ask me if I have a good dad, my answer comes quick. When people call me a good dad, I pay tribute to my parents, my mom and my dad. They did it right.