Between Thanksgiving and my father’s birthday being this month, my thoughts always drift to what it means to be a father. In his book, Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman put forth the idea that people communicate in five different ways and that people have to learn how they and their significant others speak and hear their “love language”. This got me to thinking about different fatherhood love languages.

Like most parents, I worry about what kind of men they are going to be and how best to train them to be the kind of men they ought to be. When I think about my own father, I think about how easy it is for children to point to the faults of their parents. We’re human, a smorgasbord of failings, but we try the best we can. However, my father was at least there for us and he loved us as best he could. So I’m reminded by the simple power of presence.
(Yes, I could have posted my wedding picture where me, my father, and my brother were posed like the Temptations, you know, a photo that conveyed his dignity and quiet grace … or I could this “yes, it’s Christmas, but I’m gonna grab a smoke and I’m gonna put on the first hat i find cause it’s cold” picture.)

And while being there (even if by being I mean on the couch, half dressed (if we were lucky), usually watching Murder She Wrote or some other detective show) was an important love language, that wasn’t the way I truly remember him communicating his love for us. To me, it came with a simple act of sharing.

Think about everything that the real daddy does: pay the bills, buy the food, put a fucking roof over your head. Everything you could ever ask for. Make your world a better, safer place. And what does Daddy get for all his work? The big piece of chicken. That’s all Daddy gets…is the big piece of chicken … When l was a kid, my mama would lose her mind if one of us ate the big piece of chicken by accident. ”What the fuck! You ate the big piece of chicken? ‘Oh, Lord! No, no. ‘Now l got to take some chicken and sew it up and shit. Get me two wings and a pork chop. Daddy’ll never know the difference.” –Chris Rock (Bigger and Blacker)

My dad always gave up the big piece of chicken. I have a thing for chicken wings (probably because it was always one of my favorite dishes my dad made). For as far back as I can remember, if we were ever eating as a family and I finished my food and there was no food left (which happened a lot growing up) and I mentioned that I was still hungry, my father would give me (or whoever was still hungry and said something) the food off his plate. He always saved the “big piece of chicken” for last, too.

All of this came rushing back to me as the family was out to dinner at Pucchini’s celebrating a friend’s birthday. My boys ordered some food and when it arrived, they looked at it as if someone brought them a plate of fresh octopus. With extra tentacles. Suddenly my oldest turns to me and says “I’m hungry. What do you have?” I handed him my plate of fettucini alfredo, CHICKEN fettucine alfredo, and watched him merrily eat. And I remembered how my father taught me to (show a father’s) love.

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