Every boy, as he gets older, passes through various significant events in his life as he progresses toward and through manhood. If he's lucky, like I was, he has a great father to guide him along in this journey.
Some of these milestones are formalized by a person's traditions or cultures, such as the Jewish faith's bar mitzvah. Others are more general, like getting your driver's license.
Here are some of mine:
• Age 5. Learned how to fish from my father, from tying on a hook to catching and cleaning fish. Fishing was one of the things we did as a family many weekends, and almost on all of our family vacations, which were almost always camping trips or visits to my mom's relatives farms (and thus near the great outdoors, creeks and ponds).
Age 7. Was taught that I should never start fights, but once I was in one, I should be the one to finish it. Learned not to punch with my thumb on the inside of my fist.
Age 8. Pop taught me and my brother how to maintain and repair our bikes. The miracles of household oil were brought to light, as was the art of patching a tire, fixing a chain, and basic use of tools such as wrenches and screwdrivers.
Age 8. Learned how to catch, throw and hit a baseball. Pop was very patient with my brother and I, spending hours throwing the ball back and forth and hitting to us. He also showed us how to break in a mitt by oiling it down, putting a ball in it and securing the glove around the ball with rubberbands.
• Age 9. Got my first pocketknife, a military model that had two knife blades, a file and a can/bottle opener. My dad gave me the safety briefing and showed me how to use it for whittling and carving.
• Age 10-11. Learned the value of making my own money. Pop encouraged me to get odd jobs — cutting grass, mostly, and babysitting — from neighbors and people in the neighborhood, so I could know how hard it was to earn cash to get the things I wanted.
• Age 11. Was finally allowed to play football (my parents were reluctant to let me play contact sports because of spinal surgery I had when I was about 4). Learned to stick with something once I made a commitment, to never quit and follow through. Learned a three-point stance, a four-point stance, how to tackle and how to block.
• Age 12-13. Learned how to shoot a hook shot in the driveway.
• Age 14. Beat dad for the first time ever in H-O-R-S-E. Wow.
• Age 15. Pop taught me and my brother how to drive in a beaten-down, beaten-up El Camino out near the family ranches in Radio Barrigada.
• Age 17. Pop bummed a cigarette from me while we worked on my piece-of-shit 1976 Ford Pinto up at Andersen Air Force Base. It was the first time he openly acknowledged I smoked (I started at age 15) and it meant that I could now smoke in front of him, which I did. I still respected my parents though, and wouldn't smoke in the house. We spent a lot of time working on that pile of crap, and I learned a lot about cars, including how to take apart and rebuild a carburetor.
• Age 18. While driving cross-country to our new air base, we stopped at a grocery store in Colorado to buy groceries for dinner (we usually found a park and cooked out). Pop bought an 8-pack of those tiny beer cans; I think they were 6 oz. or 8 oz. As we cooked the steaks, he offered me a beer. It was the first time we drank alcohol together.
Happy Father's Day, Pop.
It's been 10 years, but I still miss you and love you.