Happy Father's Day

This photo was taken last weekend at my son's graduation party. It is 3 generations of Engstrom dudes joined together for the happy occasion. 

I am reminded of how they got here, though the road was not always easy.  My father-in-law was not really the best father one might imagine for their sons when they were young. I know that sounds terrible but he would probably agree if you asked him.

When my husband was two, his father hopped on a motorcycle and left his family. After the gasps settle down, just remember there are two sides to every story. His young bride, my mother-in-law could not be placated.  He didn't work hard enough, he didn't make enough money, I'm sure there were a litany of 'not enoughs' and he finally had enough, so he left.

He kept in touch with his children through the years, but he was terribly unreliable. There are stories of that stereotypical son waiting all day with excitement that slowly turned to sadness, all while sitting on the old brownstone front stoop waiting for a father who never showed. Yes, my father-in-law was that stereotypical father.

He held odd jobs, never really being gainfully employed as you and I might expect. He did not contribute much financially to their rearing, rather he has spent his life living off the kindness of friends and family. Even today, we foot the bill to get him and his significant other here to Texas for this visit. But I don't begrudge him that. Never.

Oh there have been good times too, trips they took, things he taught his kids, interesting dining stories of him walking into ethnic restaurant kitchens and asking the cooks to make him what they actually eat, not what they were passing off as ethnic food to Americans.

There was the time when he hooked up with friends who had a band in Upstate New York that used to play the Grassroots Festival every year.  They were booked to play SXSW in Austin and he offered to be their bus driver in order to visit us on the cheap.  He drove a bus full of pot-smoking hippies all the way from Ithaca to Plano in a bus that could only make right turns.  I'm sure they did it with a lot of laughs, especially what with the cloud of Cheech and Chongish smoke that billowed out of the bus when they arrived at our curb and the doors opened to let him out. That was the problem though.  He just like to have a good time and march to the beat of his own drum.

Though I love him dearly, I have lived with the struggles of his son who desperately never wanted to be like his father. My husband is a workaholic. He has a burning drive to succeed no matter what the odds are because he never wanted his sons to be left sitting on the stoop waiting for him while their mother worked two jobs to put very meager food on the table.

The stories are entertaining now with so many years removed, And I see a new and improved father-in-law since those days of him flitting here and there, borrowing his oldest son's car for 6 months without his approval. Oh sure he is still a pistol at age 70 something, but he is learning to be a father now in his old age, that he never was.  For that I am grateful.

On this Father's Day the whole family will gather once again, while he is still here visiting, to celebrate the differences and similarities that tie us together.