Column: Celebrating fathers, newbies and veterans alike

From top left, clockwise, Muriel Wixson’s husband, Flint; her father, Allen Hoffacker; and her son, Atteo (12 weeks).Courtesy photo

Sure, it’s a Hallmark holiday, but this year it’s my husband’s first Father’s Day and I’m thrilled. Why? I think he’s actually excited about this one. He’s smitten with our son, who was born at the end of March, and I’m in awe. I knew he’d be a great father, the kind of great father we all read about. But to me, he’s extra great. Please humor me as I explain why.

He’s funny. No, not “dad joke” funny. He’s funny in moments that merit first-time-parent scary tears. He finds the humor when our son’s diaper explodes and leaks onto his freshly laundered pants. Home from the hospital just a few days, our son was crying. Not a dirty diaper, not hungry. I was crying, too. But my husband was laughing — joyfully laughing as he ran our son around the kitchen trying to calm him down, holding him as though he was the newly born Simba. It worked. Our son took a break from his fussing and looked up at my husband, watching unamused, fully expecting to be run around the kitchen again at 11 p.m.

The first diaper I changed was three weeks into being a new parent. I’m now getting the hang of it. But somehow the diaper pail stays empty. It’s magic, I’m sure. You know what else is magic? When our son is in full fuss mode in the early evening, but instantly calms when my husband takes hold of him after coming home from work (is this really fair, moms?).

This side of my husband — comprising rational thinking, subtle humor and some mischief — is certainly passed down from his own father, and something I also see in my own dad. After all, I’ve been celebrating him on this day for the past 31 years. He is, of course, the one who set the bar high, especially when it comes to playing outdoors.

He’s the one who taught me a fierce sense of adventure, regardless of ailments, age or weather. He’s the one who biked me all over Connecticut before I was 5 years old, and who, before I could walk, cross-country-skied with me in tow, bundled on a sled, for hundreds of miles around Vermont. My dad was our Sherpa on two-week canoe trips into northern Ontario, where we were miles away from civilization; I was 2 years old the first time we went. He taught me how to ski hours (most likely) after I took my first steps, and led me up Mount Washington shortly thereafter; it’s only fitting that my husband and I hiked up Mount Katahdin when my son was 7 weeks invitro.

My dad is the one who made me feel better about all the cuts and bruises I’d get each summer from playing, explaining the more the scars, the better the summer. He’s the one who’s already teaching my son to love the ocean. If it wasn’t for he and my mom moving closer to the North Shore, our son wouldn’t have already made his first trip to the beach. I suspect the day will come sooner rather than later when my dad, my husband and my son will spend long hours fishing and boating, complete with a story of how the fish were so big and jumped into the boat, but managed to all get away.

To my husband and my dad, and to everyone who’s a father figure, we celebrate you, especially today.

Muriel Wixson is the former features editor of The Salem News.