Fatherhood was tough enough changing diapers and trying to sleep nights, but the gig has not grown simpler with years. Sons as grown men are far more complex than I imagined.
Consider pack position. I'm still their dad. They're supposed to listen to me. Right?
No. They're grown men. I'm supposed to keep my mouth shut.
Problem is, I have occasional "I've got to put on my Dad hat" moments. I impart wisdom. They listen and nod politely.
Then they make their own decision anyway. I apologize for butting in. They say "That's OK. Your a dad."
My sons are my friends. I chat with them when I'm lonely, hang out with them when I'm bored, depend on them when I'm stuck and learn from them when I'm stupid.
That last is pretty much all the time. They inherited the family handyman gene from my brother -- not sure how that works -- so when there is building to be done, or plumbing to be figured out, or electrical stuff to be wired, I say, "Can you help?"
They say, "Sure, let me take a look." Then they do it.
Too many fathers are not friends with their sons. Someone fails to "get a job" or "get off my back." A split grows. Calls quit getting returned.
When I hear of these, I am sad. "What joy that father is missing!" I think.
Being a dad to my sons often means being a dad to their friends. Some of those friends hung out at my house all through school. I became one of the adults they knew. There's a bond.
So when one of Ben's friends joined the Air Force to fly back seat in an F-15, I was concerned. Now he's flying around Afghanistan and I worry. We send him cards and comic books -- Support the troops! -- but it feels too little.
Incident from modern war: I'm sitting in the comfort of my home, chatting with this friend on Facebook and he suddenly says, "Whoops, gotta go! Air raid alert."
It's a mortar attack. I look out my window where it is sunny and calm. The mental image of where that young man is, a man who was once a kid in my basement guzzling my Kool-Aid, blocks out that idyllic scene.
Another wrinkle. My sons are fathers. Ben has a daughter. Jeremy will have a child later this year.
This is another place where I'm stupid. Being a grandfather is easy. Being a father to my grandchildren's fathers is full of new angles.
They seem to know how to be fathers naturally. They are strong and gentle, full of joy and curiosity and patient like Job. Their kids are going to have amazing fun with their dads.
My sons sure didn't get that from me. From where I sat, I was clueless, something of a grump and I worried too much that I was boring.
Decades later I still think, "Why didn't I buy him that soda?" or "Why didn't we go to that movie?" And the biggie: "If I hadn't spanked them, would one now be president?"
Probably not. They're not old enough.
You see what I'm driving at. By some miracle, I managed to help raise not only two sons, but two fathers. They and their families enrich my life and brighten my future.
And today I get to hang out with -- and honor -- them.
Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can call him at 801-625-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. He also blogs at www.standard.net.