The Inner Dad is all about the idea that, grump though we might, most of us actually enjoy the idea of being a dad.
Bill Cosby talks about having five children, and that the reason they had five children was that they didn't want six. And those they had they wanted to get out of the house, preferably before he and Camilla grew old and died. That's the public Cosby; the funny one. Privately, though, he's been through more than a few joys and heartaches with his brood (not least of which is losing his son in a tragic incident), and I feel certain that he does not begrudge any time he may get to share with those kids today.
My own Dad was enough of a curmudgeon that we kids spent most of our childhoods not understanding him. At all. We all knew at some level that Dad loved us. But I also harbored a sneaking suspicion that, given the chance, he would have shipped me off to military school for a nickel. Now, of course, I recognize all of that as absolute hogwash. I have since revised my estimation of the man to an understanding that it would have taken more like a fifty-cent piece.
Really, once you figured Dad out, he was a great guy. My brothers-in-law have both stated (and their wives have secretly groused) that Dad always made them feel more than welcome in his home. Mrs. Woody was also made to feel that way. In fact, Mrs. Woody is probably why Dad never got comfortable around my first wife - one of those signs I should have been reading so early in my adult life. Mrs. Woody was always one of Dad's favorites from the time we were both in high school and I had all the social acumen of roofing tar. Dad, as much as anyone, was largely responsible for the fact that Mrs. Woody and I had one (count 'em! One!) date while we were still young enough to know everything. If not for Dad we might have never gotten past my own ineptitude. Thankfully I grew out of that after my divorce. Anyway, having harbored hopes that I would eventually get a clue, any female in my life that wasn't the accept-no-substitutes Mrs. Woody just wouldn't have cut it.
You can imagine that I have expended a lot of energy trying so hard to be a different sort of dad than my own father was. It probably also would not surprise you in the least to understand that every passing year brings me that much closer to precisely that image of him. Except...
I do try harder to maintain an open line of affectionate communication with my kids. I have so few regrets with respect to Dad now, but this is one of them. When I reach waaay back in my dusty bag of memories, there's one that actually is rather endearing. It involves being a squirt, not much older than my Doodle Woodyette, and being able to nestle up against Dad's arm in church. I even remember feeling drowsy and, perhaps, dozing a bit. Sacrament will do that, sometimes, to a young boy who knows that Dad will shorten his life expectancy if he so much as blows another spit wad at the girl sitting in front of him. But, interestingly, it is Dad that resides in this memory, not Mom. Oh, I had plenty of snuggle time with Mom when I was little. I suspect Mom felt I grew out of that all too quickly. But in church, on a sleepy Sunday, I remember Dad. And then our relationship evolved.
It probably happened in conjunction with the formation of my personality. As my own opinions and tastes were formally articulated, it placed me on a higher level, I believe, of expectation. Dad expected me to assume greater responsibility as I passed through my adolescent phases, and I would interpret that expectation as being unreasonable in the extreme. That's about the time I believe I stopped understanding Dad. And this I regret.
Still, I am who I am because of Dad, at least in part. I have inherited more than a little of his dry, often ironic sense of humor. I have also inherited more of his physique than I feel comfortable with. But I am comfortable with the image of Dad that I have become. The peculiar swagger with which he walked I seem to have assimilated. The hairline, the horizontal tie... I have become like my Dad.
Somehow, I think, he's happy about that.