Yesterday, my father arrived 45 minutes early for our scheduled Father’s Day breakfast. Dave and the boys were already off for a day of paint balling so we had arranged that Dad would swing by at 9:30 a.m. and we would grab a bite.   He called at 8:40 to let me know he would be in my driveway in 5 minutes.  I said, “Great. I‘m ready to go.”

And I was.

I saw that phone call coming a mile away.  My father is notoriously early.  And thus, so was I,  having gotten up and dressed about an hour before the phone rang.  As promised, five minutes later he rolled up in his 1992 Honda accord.  My Dad is proud of many things in his life – this car is one of them.  With over 200,000 miles, it lacks, shall we say, the comfort and quiet ride of a modern day vehicle.  But, by golly, it runs and that’s reason enough to keep it to “drive“around town.”  Because why on earth would he inflict any additional wear and tear on the Lexus Hybrid  he finally broke down and bought himself a few years ago?   Yes indeed, I saw the Honda coming right after the early phone call and even though I knew the answer, I took a chance and asked:

“Dad, do you want me to drive?  After all, its Father’s Day?”

Of course, he refused as his car was “already pointed in the right direction.”  Even at 75 years old, Dads like to drive.  He is an excellent driver and as I said after all its Father’s Day so I climbed in the Honda Jalopy and off we went.

I had only two demands of Dad for this day.  The first is that he would pick the place where we would eat.  The second is that I would treat.  He agreed easily to the former and reluctantly to the latter, choosing  a very large, very busy diner a few miles from my home.  Dad has always been of the mindset that the quality of the restaurant is directly proportional to the size of the menu.  The more choices, the better.  I had no argument here.

When we pulled up to the diner and saw throngs of people waiting outside, I saw him tense. Dad hates waiting for anything, especially food.     I encouraged him to park the car and I would put our name in.  He obliged and joined me in the waiting area of the diner where I happily shared with him that the wait was only going to be 15 minutes.  To me, this was hardly a wait at all.  But I could see the wheels turning in his head, reliving every experience in his life when the hostess told him 15 minutes and it was 45.

“Maybe we should go somewhere else,” he said.

Even though this was his day, I pushed back gently, suggesting that leaving was a bad idea, that anywhere else would be just as crowded, and 15 minutes is really not that long in the grand scheme of life.  He was skeptical but agreed.  And thank goodness sure enough, were seated within the time frame we were given.   Our waitress handed us our menus and went to get me some coffee while Dad embarked upon a strategic ordering discussion worthy of the joint chiefs of staff. The amn knows his way around a menu.

Ok Em, so what are you thinking?  How about we get pancakes and an omelette and then split it up. OK?
OK, Dad. Sounds great.
So let’s do the pancakes with berries and lox, onion omelet.

At that point our waitress returned with my coffee and Dad ordered before she could escape.  Elapsed time since we sat down:  A minute and thirty seconds.  Our food came even faster and as we divided and conquered our breakfast, we covered a ton of ground:  my work, the boys, his investments, my mortgage, upcoming vacations, and the schedule for the next few weeks.  Conversation flowed easily.   Dad and I have never been victim to the pregnant pauses – maybe that’s because the meals we share don’t go longer than 10 minutes, but I think we could keep up the conversation for a while if given a chance.

As we were leaving, Dad mentioned that there was an email he had sent earlier in the week that he wasn’t sure had gone through.  He wasn’t sure where the “sent” folder was and couldn’t check to see if all was ok.  So when he dropped me at the house, I pulled up his email account on my computer and verified that yes – it had gone through.  He was relieved.

He quickly took his leave from me, having things to do at home.  His bathroom needed cleaning and there was overall straightening up to be done.  His parting words of wisdom were to look into re-financing TODAY because interest rates are going up – and invest in the S&P 500.  It’s not sexy but overtime it will pay off.

Roger that.

There was nothing remarkable about this day.  Dad and I have had many meals together over the years – and this one was no different. It was chock full of his endearing idiosyncrasies and my heartfelt indulgences.  If you asked me to script the morning before it started, I would have nailed 95 percent of it.  I imagine this holds true for many adult children with regards to their parents. Could you script a conversation with your Dad before it happened?   Do you like that script?  Would you change it if you could?

Would I have my Dad show up on time in the Lexus with a Zen like attitude about patience and a sudden desire for dim sum instead of diner fare?  Would we have endless talks about the great philosophers rather than five minute raves about great financial advisors?  Would he be a whiz at email and have an active Twitter feed?  Would he read my blog – or even understand how to get here?

Would any of these changes tether us closer than we are today?  Maybe.  Are my Dad’s quirks anything more than fodder for gentle ribbing and secret roasting with my siblings? Not really.  Do I hope someday that my boys will forgive my daily trespasses which are no starting form in their infancy?  Indeed.

It is amazing how liberating it is when you decide that you don’t need to change your parents — probably even more so than when you decide you don’t need to change your kids.  The amount of energy that is transferred from angst and frustration to appreciation and simple enjoyment is powerful indeed.

At 75, Dad has earned his right to do things his way. With so many friends not having the chance to spend Father’s Day with their Dads, I feel grateful to be able to tag along – even if it means a 10 minute breakfast 45 minutes earlier than I expected via a car 2o years past its prime.

Here’s to all the fatherly quirks out there.  May they continue to thrive and remind us all from where we came.

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