Just so we get it out of the way upfront, let me state for the record that I love my Dad, Wes.
He’s always been a supportive and encouraging Father, a good listener, a strong advisor, and an excellent role model.
In terms of the luck of the draw, I couldn’t possibly have asked for a better Dad.
That said, if there’s one area where Wes has been somewhat, shall we say, historically deficient it would be in his fashion sense.
In short, my Dad is a guy who’s never spent a whole lot of time worrying about clothes. Cool, trendy, and hip just aren’t ideas that have ever hit his radar, if you know what I mean.
It’s more than 25 years ago now, but I still have a distinct memory of my parents loading up the car to take me off to college and my Dad standing in the driveway waiting for me. He was wearing a blue sport shirt, a pair of plaid shorts, bright white tennis shoes, and horror of horrors: black socks pulled up to his knees.
Putting aside for a moment the painful contrast between the plaid shorts and the blue shirt, and the fish belly legs that hadn’t seen the light of day since the Eisenhower administration, as an 18 year old, I couldn’t for the LIFE of me fathom what would possess an otherwise intelligent and educated grown man to EVER wear tennis shoes with black dress socks.
To make a culinary analogy, this is like putting peanut butter on a steak. In and of themselves, both things are fine, but the two should never, ever, EVER go together.
And though I’m embarrassed to admit it now, I believe I suggested to my Dad in that smarmy I know everything’ kinda way that most 18 year olds have perfected, that his chosen outfit wasn’t really going to work for me and there was really no way I could be seen on a college campus with him unless he either swapped out the shorts for pants, or swapped out the black socks for white tube socks in deference to his gleaming tennis shoes.
I know, I know. Talk about your ungrateful kid, right? Here I am headed off for an expensive education, fiscally supported in large part by my parent’s hard work, and I’m worried about my old man’s choice of clothes.
Redefining the word “shallow” on a daily basis. That’s the 18 year old me in a nutshell. Much as I hate to admit it.
My Dad isn’t one to raise a fuss over most things and as I recall, he went back in the house, changed out of his shorts, put on pants and some casual dress shoes, and with that, we loaded into the car and toodled off to my first day of college.
Fast forward to this past weekend when I’m out in my yard doing clean up.
As I bend over to pick up one of the kid’s toys, I catch a glimpse of my tennis-shoed foot, and just the hint of a black dress sock peeking out under the leg of my jeans.
In my own defense, it’s not like I was wearing shorts at the time. And it’s not like I was dropping off my kids at college or anything. But my kids are still pretty young. And in the next 10 years I could totally see myself winding up wearing black dress socks and tennis shoes with my shorts hiked up to my armpits. It could happen. Just ask my wife.
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks: The torch of fashion dork-itude has been passed to a new generation.
Unfortunately, that new generation is me.
Talk about having the wind taken out of your sails.
As I mull all this over, it occurs to me that my primary goal in life is to live long enough to be habitually embarrassing to all my children, and then to live even longer so my kids can come to the same realization that I did this weekend:
Even though your parents are tragically un-hip, and often make questionable fashion choices, and at some point will do something so unfathomably square that you will want to crawl into a hole and never come out, they love you beyond anything words could say. And in the long run, that matters a lot more than wearing black socks with shorts and tennis shoes.
Or as Mark Twain once said so eloquently: “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 he’d learned in just 7 years.”
Memo to self: call Dad after work today. Thank him again. For everything.