On Father's Day, skip the fake dads for real life

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Maybe you heard about some guys in Washington state who posted an ad on Craigslist seeking a “generic father for backyard BBQ.”

“The Boys,” a large group of 20-somethings, was planning a Father’s Day get-together when one decided to advertise for a spatula-wielding father figure.

The successful surrogate would grill hamburgers and hot dogs, on his own grill, meat provided, refer to members of The Boys as “big guy,” “chief,” “champ,’ etc., talk about dad things (lawn mowers, Jimmy Buffett) and drink beer.

This, of course, got quite a bit of media attention. The Boys served up a saucy platter of trendy angles on a tired holiday normally tied up in a full-Windsor knot of clichés. Rejoice, editors and producers.

One of The Boys, according to ABC News, dubbed the whole thing “absolutely hysterical.” They received about 100 applications.

My first thought was, hey, if Grill Dad becomes a new profession, this could be my Plan B. I have a grill, with wheels. Hamburgers and hot dogs are no sweat. I’m not all that fluent in Buffet, but how about Springsteen? As far as calling anyone “chief,” that might take a few beers, but I’m game.

My second thought was: Where are your non-fake dads?

This is, for me, where the story got interesting.

After The Boys got their 15 minutes, plus, some of their actual fathers decided they might like to attend the cookout. Imagine that. Most, according to the ABC News’ account, live two hours or more away. Still, not exactly on the other side of the earth.

I can hear the phone conversations.

“Hey dad, what’s up?”

“Hey, son, I just saw you on the news. So you’re hiring a fake barbecue dad for Father’s Day.”

“Yeah, isn’t that absolutely hysterical?”

“Oh, sure. Hilarious. I wish I’d known this is a thing. You could have hired a ‘college tuition dad’ and a ‘give me a ride to every stinking thing dad,’ maybe a ‘teach me how to ride a bike dad’ or perhaps a ‘can I have some money and the car dad?’ Maybe you should have asked your pal Craig to list those. Maybe I should advertise for a `grateful Father’s Day son,’ huh?”

“Um, actually, Craigslist is an online….,”

“Whatever. You just tell The Boys I’ll be there Sunday. And I’ve got some dad stories to tell about you, all right. Absolutely hysterical stuff.”

Sorry if I sound a little cranky. I fear no dudes will invite me for brews.

Truth is Father’s Day, for me, steadily is becoming less lampoon-able and more melancholy.

Although my daughters have yet to fly the coop, the exit sign is approaching with remarkable speed. One is a high school sophomore who spent the last two weeks purging her room of childhood artifacts before painting its walls a very adult gray. The other, an incoming seventh-grader, marched off to College for Kids at Coe this week. She’s still very interested in making slime and throwing water balloons, but College for College will arrive in a flash.

Sweet kids, to be sure. Their smarts and hearts will carry them far. And it won’t be very long before they’d rather spend a sunny, June Sunday with their cool barbecue friends than drive all the way back home for some lame Father’s Day with he-who-complains-a-lot. Who can blame them?

This is, of course, what I richly deserve, considering how infrequently I visit my own father, who is 85. We seem to spend all of our time lately lurching and veering from softball games to softball practices to softball tournaments to work to errands and so much other scheduled stuff. Our visits to my homeland have become too scarce.

“I was beginning to think I didn’t have any kids,” he says when I call. Ouch.

So things have gotten a lot more complicated since those years when Father’s Day meant homemade Crayola cards and running through the sprinkler. Time is moving faster, it seems. That’s life.

But if you’re still searching for a nice Father’s Day gift, some of that precious time is always a good choice, along with a few nice reminders of when things were a little less complicated. Slow things down for a day. These are gifts that always fit, and there’s no danger he’ll take them back.

But if he becomes insufferably sullen and sappy, by all means, check Craigslist, chief.

l Comments: (319) 398-8452; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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