by Dan Hill
To celebrate Father’s Day in June 2000, my 11-year-old son and I walked to our local Starbucks in the Beach. Like most kids his age do with their dads, David opens up to me occasionally, but on his terms and timetable. Meaning, the more I ask him questions the more he clams up. It’s when I just hang with him—no computer, cell phones, video games, no competition for his attention— that he says the most memorable things.
It’s unusually crowded at Starbucks when we arrive; we sit next to the cash register. As we tuck in to our food, David makes the quasi-humming sound he always does when eating something he loves. To hear it is pure bliss for me.
What is it about watching your child eat that makes a parent feel so good? The clientele appears remarkably well dressed for a Sunday morning, and the mood is serious as people focus on getting their jolt of caffeine. Like me, David feels uncomfortable in small, crowded places and is inclined, like me, to act out. When he looks up from his 1,000-calorie iced drink with a fiendish expression, I know I’m in trouble. He’s about to spring something. Suddenly I’m hot with anxiety, itchy beneath my wool sweater as I unconsciously slide my hand inside to scratch.
The throngs of coffee cravers now form a bulging line, some backing right into our table. David’s eyes light up and his mouth goes into a faux snarl. Pointing at my hand beneath my sweater, he yells, “Dad, how many times have I told you not to play with yourself in public!” Mortified, I drop my hand into my lap. Bad idea. The strangers gape at me in shock and disgust, whisper “. . . and in front of an innocent child!” David shoots me a triumphant look as I hastily escort him outside.
“Happy Father’s Day, Dad,” my son coos sweetly, now that there’s no one to shock. I haven’t been back to that Starbucks since.
Dan Hill, winner of a Grammy and 5 Junos, is the author of the critically acclaimed memoir, I Am My Father’s Son. His latest DVD/CD includes a video documentary on his fascinating collaboration with world-famous boxer Manny Pacquiao and features Manny and Dan’s duet of “Sometimes When We Touch” (as shown above). Dan will be performing at the Red White and Vinyl Canada Day event at Woodbine Park on July 1.