There's only one "Mr. Mike Hayes" and he's my father.
Now at 81, I've started to realize that I have fewer Father's Days ahead of me with my Father, than are behind me in the distant past. Long gone are days of running in the park and instead are the days where he watches me from afar running with my dog in the park I grew up in as we did yesterday.
But while I 'm able to continue to enjoy my dad who I am named after, I know there are plenty of people who don't have that luxury. My father being one of them. Yesterday he was feeling nostalgic and mused about his own father, a man he never knew.
"They told me that he died when I was a baby. I don't know if that's true. He could've been a merchant marine who passed through my beautiful Waterford County and...well. I guess I'll never know the whole story and what I don't know can't really hurt me."
But the one man that my Father called "Pop" was my mother's father. An uneducated, French-Canadian gravedigger and "the nicest man to ever wear shoes" --or at least that's how my father recalled him yesterday.
"And when he met me...he looked at your mother and said "That's the one."
Thinking that this might be my father's inflated sense of himself, I asked my mother and she corroborated the story.
"Yep. That's right. He said, 'Of all the guys you've brought home, this is the one you'll marry.' And he was right, I did marry him. Nearly 60 years now (their 59th anniversary is this August, God -willing)."
Family traditions are hard to come by at times, but I remember being in my parent's kitchen alone with my Father and bringing Marion, my now wife of merely 7 years, to meet him for the first time. I had brought only two or three other women to meet the family and I'm not sure if they met with his approval. He never offered an opinion on any of them, he merely was polite and hospitable. But nobody was ever able to keep an interesting conversation with him as my wife continues to do each time she enters his home.
So after a bit of awkward silence I asked my Dad after meeting and talking with Marion:
"So...? What do you think?"
Dad: "About what?"
Mike: "Daaaaaad! You know what! C'mon!"
Dad: (Now laughing mischievously) "OK, OK. (long pause) I would say, of all the ones that you've ever brought here I like her the best of all."
Mike: "But Dad, you didn't like anybody else I've brought home."
Dad: "Michael, stop it. She's lovely, she's the one. You know it and I know it."
Mike: "OK, Dad. Thanks."
I wasn't asking for his blessing. I was looking for wisdom from a man whom I've admired for nearly 40 years now. A man who could judge a person's character with a few gentle conversations and who dismissed people who treated people unjustly with his own pleasant disposition that never required him to be nasty in return. His silence spoke volumes to those people and to others. In essence, he'd be saying "You are not worth talking to because I am not worth talking to in your eyes."
If for the next 53 years I can be half as good as being my wife's "Mr. Mike Hayes" as he has been to my mother. I'll be doing OK. He's lived those vows:
"For better and for worse,
For richer for poorer,
In sickness and in health
until Death do us part."
While never having a lot of money nor owning his own home and living through my mother's many illnesses for the past 30 years or so, nothing but death can ever and will ever keep this man, the only one really worthy of being called "Mr. Hayes", from being just that--my mother's husband and my sister and my own father.
And for nearly 60 years, it has been more than enough.
For him and certainly for me.
Thanks for another great day with you, Dad.
Happy Father's Day.