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Chris Erskine: Do You Have a Good Dad? Bravo.

She’s made of borrowed parts. My chin. Her father’s eyes. Her mama’s chestnut hair. Her other grandpa’s keen mind.
My 3-year-old granddaughter seems the summation of some great oral argument, or maybe a poem. She’s a California poppy in the middle of a fallow, forgotten field. She’s a base hit just when you need it the most.
In life, mysteries pile atop other mysteries. There are creeks within a stream, a universe on the head of a pin. I won’t pretend to have all the answers. Only some of them.
“Hey, Papa, why is your beard so white?”
“Because I’m old,” I tell my granddaughter. “One day, you’ll have whiskers too.”
“Really?” she says, eyes wide.
“Really,” I say.
In this week of fathers, in this week of dad jokes and barbecues, of picnics on the beach, I’d like to cast one vote for fatherhood (and grandfatherhood). And to the joys and sacrifices of a simple and devoted life.
Here’s to the dads with motor-oil breath, to the guys who never call in sick. Here’s to the dudes who put a little aside each month for weddings and college. Here’s to all the unsung heroes who are ridiculed, mocked, blamed and mislabeled for all the world’s misfortunes, shrug it off and carry on.
Here’s to the dads.
If your life is occasionally enchanted, if some of your dreams come true, and others don’t, yet you hang in there and never quit, thank your dad.
“Quitters never win,” my father used to say. “And winners never whine, OK?”
Here are some of his other vital life tips (individual results may vary):
On finding lost items: “Try opening your eyes, not your mouth.”
On political ambition: “First they crave money, then they crave power.”
On investment strategies: “Never bet the gray horse.”
Got yourself a good dad? Bravo. Mazelness. I’d say you won the lottery, but really, it’s not that rare. Most dads are good dads, some more into it than others. Most of the guys I know (me included) might’ve had spotty records as spouses. But, man, did we work hard as dads.
We coached our sons, our daughters, taught them to ride bikes, running sideways with them, as if playing shortstop, shufflingshuffling-shuffling the feet, breathlessly encouraging them to pedal-pedal-pedal, until the kid took off on his or her own, wobbly as a wine glass.
In that moment, we became men. Actually, we became more than men. We became dads.
Then the bike crashed.
Whoops.
“OK, let’s try that again.”
“I think I’m bleeding, Dad.”
“We all are. Let’s try that again.”
To some, “dad” is a dirty word. Yet, most of the fathers I know were there for the birthdays, batting practices, the scraped knees. There is nothing in the world they prized more than to work on a hitter’s stance, or a Pinewood Derby car, a penalty kick.
“Nose over the ball, plant that left leg, now drive …”
Even homework. One dad I knew took a UCLA extension course after work just to help his daughters with their fifth-grade math.
To this day, the greatest moments of our lives happened on ball fields, or campouts, or while setting up soccer goals on damp November mornings.
Sure, sniff all you want over those prosaic suburban tasks, the sheer repetition of it. But when those days are gone … just pictures buried in your phone … you realize they were everything.
Life is fleeting, life is unfair. I mean, if life were fair, why did Van Gogh die young? Or Don Drysdale?
If life were fair, why do the Chicago Cubs, with the best fans in all of sports and that sweet little curio of a ballpark, have to wait an entire century to win the World Series?
As you know, there are 108 stitches on a baseball. And the Cubs win the World Series every 108 years. Cosmic, right? Otherworldly. Sort of haunted. To me, that represents life, and baseball, and fatherly devotion all stitched together in one lovely wad.
As I said, I don’t have all the answers. Just a lot of questions.
“Hey, Cakes, wanna eat popcorn on the couch?”
“Hey, Smartacus, wanna go to the driving range?
Or, when my lovely and patient older daughter calls: “Papa, the sitter is sick. Can you watch her tomorrow morning?”
The answer is yes. Always yes. Because, you know, all of this is fleeting, as I said. All the yummy and amazing stuff — the Mickey Mouse pancakes, the Christmas Eves, the Easter mornings … the art fairs, the soccer playoffs, the dance recitals. Unbelievably fleeting.
Happy Father’s Day.

Borrowed parts: My chin, her dad’s eyes, her mama’s chestnut hair.

Need a dad gift? Please consider “Perfect Eloquence,” the new appreciation of Vin Scully, L.A.’s maestro of the microphone. Or “What the Bears Know,” Steve Searles’ ode to the California wilderness. They’re available in bookstores and online. Cheers and thanks.

First published June 13-15 in Outlook Newspapers.

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